The city of Porto Alegre, in the southernmost Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, will become the world capital of tourism next week, when it will host Destinations 2006 – World Tourism Forum for Peace and Sustainable Development, between November 29th and December 2nd.
The forum will be attended by approximately 5,000 people from over 40 countries, including state ministers, businessmen, third sector leaders, academicians and students.
"This is an ongoing action event aimed at promoting quality tourism, which caters to basic issues such as social development, the valuing of cultural diversity, the preservation of biodiversity and the search for peace," claimed Felipe Cruz, president of Instituto de Hospitalidade (Hospitality Institute), who is also one of the event’s creators.
During the forum, there will be a presentation of 120 case studies of countries that managed to use tourism to promote peace and sustainable development. The idea is to promote worldwide exchange of experiences, strategies and innovative solutions.
Among the case studies to be presented are those of the Hotel Casuarina Beach, in Barbados, which works towards accessibility in tourism; the Indian communities in Ecuador; the Tourism for Peace course at the University of Sydney, Australia; the Campi Ya Kanzi, in Kenya, the Route of the Ksours, in Algeria, the desert areas in the Sahara, Africa, the Rio de La Plata, between Uruguay and Argentina, where controversial industrial plants are being installed, and the Kerala Spice Tour, in India.
On the Brazilian side, the Brasil das íguas (Brazil of the Waters) case will be presented, including the Ibicuí River, in Rio Grande do Sul, and other examples of sustainable tourism in the Pantanal (the world’s largest wetland area, mostly within the midwestern Brazilian states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul).
Another issue to be discussed during the forum is the confrontation and prevention of sexual exploitation of children and adolescents in tourism. Issues related to gastronomic tourism, the rescuing of culture, and the strategic management of new destinations will be tackled as well.
According to Cruz, one of the main themes will be the promotion of peace through tourism. "Peace is one of the focuses of the program. Tourism brings people closer together, therefore it favours the creation of peace-oriented initiatives," he said.
One of the cases to be presented is about tension zones in the Middle East, and about how tourism might contribute for peace in that region.
The forum program will also include the 2nd Meeting of South American Tourism Ministers and High Authorities, to be attended by 25 Ministers of Tourism from several countries; the Meeting of Affiliate Members of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Meeting of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). All lectures, conferences and panels will be held at the campus of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul (PUCRS).
Created in Brazil in 2003, the World Tourism Forum is a global initiative that attracted more than 6,000 people from 86 different countries in two years of events.
The first forum was held in Salvador, in the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia, and the second one in the southeastern state of Rio de Janeiro.
During the two editions, 142 case studies were presented and discussed in 347 panels, reporting experiences in 53 different countries. The next forum, Destinations 2007, will be held in another country, which has not yet been defined by the organizers.
"The meeting has increasingly attracted more people with each new year. Our goal is to make this movement grow even further, and to make people aware of the need to have quality tourism," Cruz said.
The World Tourism forum is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Tourism and of the Tourism for Peace and Sustainable Development Foundation, of the United Nations, through the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (Unesco), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).