IN THE HOLY FATHER'S NAME
ON THE OCCASION OF THE 28th WORLD DAY OF TOURISM
World Tourism Day will be celebrated this 27 September. For this occasion the Holy Father desires to convey his cordial greeting to you, through me, together with his hope that the event will serve to strengthen the positive values of tourism.
One of the most characteristic social and cultural phenomena that the 20th century has passed on to the 21st is the gradual empowerment of women as creative individuals in human history. In his Encyclical Pacem in Terris, Blessed John XXIII pointed out "the part that women are now playing in political life" as a characteristic sign of the times and noted: "Women are gaining an increasing awareness of their natural dignity. Far from being content with a purely passive role or allowing themselves to be regarded as a kind of instrument, they are demanding both in domestic and in public life the rights and duties which belong to them as human persons" (n. 41). Very fittingly, therefore, the World Tourism Organization is proposing as the theme for reflection this year: "Tourism opens doors for women". The Day is a felicitous and important opportunity to reflect on the various aspects of the issue, not only with regard to the complex reality of contemporary tourism but also the more general consideration of the acceptance in practice of the needs that derive from the dignity proper to women.
The most recent statistical data published by the World Tourism Organization show that despite the differences between countries and between geographical areas, about 46 percent of the workforce of the world tourist industry is made up of women. However, forms of employment vary, given the very strong influence of cultural, social and religious factors on the historical situation of women. The positive achievement of financial and economic results, both public and private, and the enormous flexibility of the tourist sector are the cause of this rapid and universal growth. For this reason, while it is still in great need of legal, cultural and moral guarantees, tourism is nonetheless an open door that offers favourable opportunities for the empowerment of women in every part of the world.
All those who travel for purposes of tourism, work or a vacation have impressed in their memory an image of the women who intervened to carry out some specific task at different moments on their journey. It may be an image of the travel agency employee, the flight attendant, the tour guide, the waitress in a restaurant, the chambermaid, the hotel manager, the museum guide or the poor woman selling local products and artefacts. These women have roles that differ but that nonetheless must never be in opposition to the dignity proper to every woman.
Unfortunately, it must be recognized that despite this massive and functional female presence, the vertical segregation of women by directors and those with managerial responsibilities in tourism frequently persists. The cause of this negative phenomenon is to be sought in the strong prejudices that nourish the endurance of stereotypes and of the traditional attribution of subordinate roles according to gender. And this is true everywhere, but particularly in those parts of the world where the moral, cultural and civil consideration of women relegates them to conditions of minority and pronounced injustice.
Every tourist, whatever his or her social class or continent, must feel challenged in conscience by this responsible commitment to the safeguarding and promotion of women. No one may consider himself or herself exonerated! To this end, it is necessary to work for an effective equality of women's rights, to guarantee to them fairness in work, religious freedom, respect for the requirements of motherhood and the payment of equally remunerative wages. The right of young and older women to study and to obtain professional qualifications should be concretely encouraged, combating with positive and consistent legislation every form of unjust exploitation of their gender and of the unworthy trade in their bodies as a commodity. In fact, it is only right to denounce the intolerable scandal of a certain sex tourism which humiliates women, reducing them in practice to a situation of slavery. All that is necessary must be done in order to prevent tourism from drifting in this direction and to ensure that it always aims to be an opportunity for fruitful dialogue between different civilizations, which may be reciprocally ennobled and enriched thanks to this encounter.
In her structured and multi-faceted vision, the Church obviously always aspires to keep the horizon of the humanization of tourism open and critical because of the opportunities it offers for the growth, development and perfection of the person. Concerning women as such, tourism can also contribute effectively - ethically and anthropologically, of course - to increasing their potential, their relational nature, their feminine feeling for the value of life and of the spirit, and to rethinking their work and their benefit. In this regard it should not be forgotten that in his Message for the World Day of Peace this year, the Holy Father denounced the lack of respect for the dignity of women caused by "the mindset persisting in some cultures, where women are still firmly subordinated to the arbitrary decisions of men, with grave consequences for their personal dignity and for the exercise of their fundamental freedoms" (n. 7). Only by overcoming these forms of discrimination will it be possible to make tourism a winning proposal for appropriately combining the management of the tourist's life with the guarantee of quality of life for the residents. In this way, tourism could become an authentic and shared enjoyment of leisure time and nature, the experience and practice of a hospitality suited to creating a culture of acceptance and the search for beauty and wisdom with which the biblical and Christian tradition abounds.
In this perspective, while the Holy Father hopes for gifts of wisdom, generosity and courage in abundance for those involved in such an important sector of modern life, he invokes upon you, Mr Secretary General, and upon your Collaborators the Blessings of God, "the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change" (Jas 1: 17).
As I add my own good wishes for the success of the Day, I make the most of this opportunity to offer you my respectful regards.