The Holy See
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Secretary General of the
World Tourism Organization

Mr. Secretary General,

On the occasion of the celebration of the World Tourism Day, which will be held on 27th September next, I am pleased to send you the cordial greetings of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, together with His wish that this important recurrence will contribute to making known the positive impact of tourism when it is inspired by human and spiritual values. This year’s theme as proposed by this World Organization, “Tourism enriches”, offers the opportunity to reflect on how further to qualify a culture of travel and human mobility such as is present in the different types of contemporary tourism. At the same time, it provides a way to analyse the numerous financial and economic interests and the wide-ranging social, religious, cultural, political and ecological implications that today’s globalised dimension of tourism offers for the responsible consideration of States and of Peoples.

Tourism is an undisputed source of well-being because it helps to drive the economies of Nations and represents a major portion of the gross domestic product and of the balance of payments of the majority of States. Furthermore, in the diverse sectors connected with tourist activity millions of persons are employed and the most disparate social categories find places of work. Multinational finance corporations and differentiated national businesses are constituted which, even for diverse age groups such as the young and the retired, facilitate more easily tourist exchanges during every season of the year. Millions of persons and families practice tourism; it gives rise to associations of workers and family cooperatives and according to its category involves cities and country, it interests places in the mountains or at sea, naturalist sites or even those that are culturally significant.

Tourism is thus a happy occasion and an undeniable resource for art and craftsmanship. Through the most current technological innovations (internet, airplanes, ships, super-highways, high-speed trains, etc.) every distance of space and time is removed and the tourist can thus easily reach every corner of the earth. In the reciprocal welcome between visitor and host one can realize that exchange of the goods of the earth and of culture which renders human life more fraternal and based on solidarity.

This World Organization has on numerous occasions recalled that tourism is above all an affair of human beings. The enrichment that it can produce must not be, therefore, simply economic or material. In this regard, the Second Vatican Council made the following pertinent observation: “Shorter working hours are becoming the general rule everywhere and provide greater opportunities for large numbers of people. This leisure time must be properly employed to refresh the spirit and improve the health of mind and body…by means of travel to broaden and enrich people’s minds by learning from others.” (The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, No. 61). Tourism can promote an authentic human and social development thanks to the growing opportunity that it offers for a sharing of goods, for rich cultural exchanges, for approaching natural or artistic beauty, for a comparison between different mentalities, traditions and religions. Travelling enriches the human spirit when one sets out to discover something new, when one is drawn to know the answers that others have given to the great questions of human existence. Especially in our time, tourism appeals to the human person who wants to grow in knowledge and to experience how men and women are the bearers of civilization and of good. In order for this to be possible, a serious preparation is necessary, one that avoids improvisation and superficiality. It is therefore desirable that States, associations of tour operators, academic and cultural institutions and unions of the tourist sector encourage the formation of specific competences and then offer dynamic guarantees for the welcoming of tourists. It is equally important to develop a persuasive program of education for the values of tourism in relation to and in defence of the persons, the communities and natural and cultural goods of the hosts. Only thus will the new marketplaces of tourism and leisure become resources for true human enrichment for all without excluding those who come from underprivileged conditions on account of their natural or social and cultural origin.

His Holiness invites all those who work in partnership with the well-known activity of the World Tourism Organization to an effective commitment, each within the area of his or her specific competence, so that tourism may be lived as an occasion of human and spiritual enrichment. In this way, tourism can become another valuable resource for the true enrichment for humanity. In fact, through tourism men, women and cultures exchange the values of knowledge and well-being, of justice and of freedom, of goodness and of peace – values that give full meaning to life. The Holy Father accompanies these wishes with the assurance of a special remembrance in prayer, while He invokes upon all the blessing of God. I willingly join my own best wishes to those of His Holiness and I avail myself of the occasion to assure you of the sentiments of my esteem.

Sincerely yours,

Angelo Card. SODANO
Secretary of State


From the Vatican, 8th September 2006

*L'Osservatore Romano. Weekly Edition in English n40 p.6.