March 29, 2014

World Tourism Day: Bringing Cultures Together

by Marcela Torres

Each year, on September 27, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) celebrates World Tourism Day, with the purpose fostering awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic value. In 2011, the celebrations are focusing on tourism and bringing cultures together.

According to the UNWTO, in 2010, 940 million tourists travelled to a different country, coming into direct contact with tangible – art, monuments – and intangible – music, food, traditions – culture. World Tourism Day 2011 (WTD 2011) is a celebration of this unique interaction and aims at furthering understanding of the values of cultural diversity.

“The message on this World Tourism Day is that, thanks to tourism, millions of people from different cultures are being brought together around the world like never before,” says UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. “This interaction between people of different backgrounds and ways of life represents an enormous opportunity to advance tolerance, respect and mutual understanding”.

WTD 2011 also draws attention to the importance of preserving and promoting the cultures of the world in all their forms. Culture, which compels millions of tourists to travel and spend, is of immense value in itself, but is also a vital tool for the development of a sustainable tourism sector. As such, it must be thoughtfully managed and protected, as set out in the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism which states that: “Tourism policies and activities should be conducted with respect for the artistic, archaeological and cultural heritage, which they should protect and pass on to future generations”.

Ancient cultures in Chile

In Chile, the State acknowledges and Chilean indigenous peoples are the descendants of human populations that have been present in the national territory since Pre-Hispanic times, that conserve ethnic and cultural traditions and have the land as the basis for their existence and culture.

The State acknowledges the following as Chile’s main ethnic groups: Mapuche, Aymara, Rapa Nui or Easter Islanders, those of the Atacama or Lickan Antay communities, Quechuas and Collas in northern Chile, and the Kaweshkar or Alacalufe and Yamana or Yagan in the southern fjords.

According to the last census carried out in Chile in 2002, 4.6% of the interviewees identified themselves with one of these ethnic groups. Of these, the majority (87.3%) declared to be descendent of the Mapuches. They are followed by the Aymaras (7%) and the Lickan Antay (3%). The rest (Colla, Rapa Nui, Quechua, Yamana and Alacalufe) add up to 2.7%.

Protecting cultural wealth

Tourism is an economic sector based on human interaction, exchange and dialogue. WTD 2011 is a call to all those involved in tourism to act in a way that is conscious and respectful of culture, which promotes intercultural dialogue and ensures that local communities fully participate in, and benefit from, the development opportunities of tourism.

“Culture is one of our most precious assets and needs protecting. As we launch World Tourism Day 2011, I call on all people to conduct tourism in a way that preserves and enriches the cultural wealth of the world for future generations,” says Mr. Rifai.

This entry was originally posted by the author on September 26, 2011.

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