The Holy See
back up

 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move

N° 96 (Suppl.), December 2004





(from the horizon of the people visited in the Third World Countries)




Archbishop-Patriarch Emeritus, 

Archdiocese of Goa and Damão,



For several years now, particularly in forums or meetings organized by the Church or Church-related institutions to deal with tourism (as distinct from other categories of human mobility, such as migrants, refugees, etc.), the representative-proponents of the developed countries of the Western World – specially from Europe and the United States of America – would rightly defend and propound with vigour the theory of the right of the human person and of citizens to use and manage their free time for their benefit associated with rest, leisure, entertainment, socio-cultural interaction, etc. As a matter of fact, on such occasions the thesis proposed to the participants would be normally but forcefully based also on theological arguments and reflections.

On the other hand, the participants of the developing or poor countries of the Third World would not appear to be much impressed (and, much less, convinced) by the theories or thesis and arguments presented to them as they, belonging to the host countries had the sad experience of not only not enjoying the many benefits expected to improve their living human conditions but, on the contrary, of being deprived of their natural resources and made victims of deceit and exploitation due to tourism seen and capitalized as an industry and commercial venture for market forces.

In these circumstances, what would be highly desirable at the present juncture is that all of us try to make sincere efforts to understand and appreciate the position and feelings of the other side. In this regard, would it be too much to plead for and expect greater understanding of and appreciation for the weaker and much exploited side in connection with or due to Tourism?

Let our vision be: “A renewed tourism world, wherein people enrich their lives in encounters that safeguard the dignity of every person, respect diverse cultural heritages, protect and promote earth’s integrity and thus foster harmony and peace”.

May this presentation – with its analysis, proposals and suggestions – prove to be a small but positive effort in the right direction so as to contribute in some measure to a healthy process towards a genuine Pastoral Care of Tourism with the active participation and wholehearted co-operation of all in a spirit of communion and fellowship of solidarity. And let us look forward with optimism, specially as a Church alive with ecclesial communion, to a hope-filled Apostolate of Tourism in the years to come.

1. Introduction

It is apt to introduce this talk - a sharing of personal thoughts and reflections - on Pastoral Care of Tourism Â“from the horizon of the people visited in the Third World Countries”, quoting His Holiness Pope John Paul II in the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia, n. 7: “Though a legitimate industry with its own cultural and educational values, tourism has in some cases a devastating influence upon the moral and physical landscape of many Asian countries, manifested in the degradation of young women and even children through prostitution. The pastoral care of migrants, as well as that of tourists, is difficult and complex, especially in Asia where basic structures for this may not exist. Pastoral planning at all levels needs to take these realities into account”.

At this preliminary stage it would also be pertinent to draw attention to the “Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of Tourism” issued by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People in 2001, with strong statements like the following ones: “We all know that in many cases tourist initiatives have caused grave damage not only to social life, culture and environment, but even to the countryÂ’s economy through the illusion of instantaneous development. The necessary measures should be adopted to stop this process where it is under way, and to keep it from happening in the future”. It is also acknowledged that “a grave injustice is done when tourist centres are provided with services that the local community does not normally have. This is more reprehensible when these services have to do with means necessary for a dignified existence, such as the water supply or public health” (n. 12). Besides, the Guidelines make a pointed reference in n. 13 to the process of globalization of the economy as related to tourism due to which “the distance between rich and poor countries has been accentuated; and a new form of slavery and dependency for the weaker countries has been created, and the supremacy of the economic order has been established that threatens the dignity of the person”. In fact, it has drawn its inspiration from Ecclesia in Asia, n. 39, in which Pope John Paul II forcefully speaks of “the aspect of cultural globalizationÂ… drawing Asian societies into a global consumer culture that is both secularist and materialistic”.

The above quotations clarify the following two inter-connected points keeping in mind that this talk has in view “the horizon of the people visited in the Third World Countries”:

1. Tourism, being recognized as an industry, can easily be considered and treated as a commercial venture for market forces. As a result of the economic and political forces and expectations involved in such tourism, the tourist destination will be treated as a product, the local people marketed as a part of that product, and the tourist treated as a consumer.

2. Consequently, the perspective appearing to be adopted by us - or, perhaps, being actually but unintentionally adopted by us - in this presentation to assess the forces under reference and to present our proposals and suggestions may be the perspective of victims under the forces in play. Hence, the analysis, proposals and suggestions being made will probably sound more negative and less optimistic, although the positive influence of the same forces, if any, is not ignored.

May this presentation be objectively unbiased without undue emphasis on the evil effects of tourism and, with the cooperation and involvement particularly of the participants of this Congress, the right balance may be struck with due consideration for the positive effects of tourism so that meaningful and practical conclusions may be drawn to promote the desired cause of a genuine Pastoral Care of Tourism. 

2. The Reality of Tourism Today

Tourism today is a transnational, multi-dimentional industry, an important component of the social, cultural, economic and political reality. Capital, in large amounts, is invested for leisure activities. Tourism has great influence on society at large.

In the twentieth century, tourists were mostly from Western Europe and the USA. They visited certain preferred destinations like the Mediterranean Region, the Pacific Islands and such other places. Today, hordes of tourists are also from countries like Japan, Russia and Israel. In the past few decades some Third World Countries too have developed and promoted tourist destinations, on a large scale. In these circumstances, both ‘touristsÂ’ and ‘hostsÂ’ have ceased to be predominantly Christian. Another noteworthy aspect is that a sizeable number of people from the Third World Countries themselves visit not only ‘hotspotsÂ’ in their respective countries but Europe and the Americas. What was termed as ‘down underÂ’ part of the world - Australia and New Zealand - are also ‘visitedÂ’. Sydney Harbour is a familiar landmark on tourism brochures. 

Touring is a free decision, influenced by various factors, the primary one being holidaying: rest, relaxation and entertainment. The motivation and purpose for which the tour is undertaken will not only determine the choice of the destination, but the type of services expected.

Yet another important dimension is the accepted social convention to consider as a ‘touristÂ’ any individual who is away from his/her residence for a period of over 24 hours but less than a year. Hence, any individual travelling for conferences, workshops, training programmes, business meets is a tourist. A point of interest is that these activities are also combined with others commonly associated with a holiday, and consequently destinations suitable for both are selected. Those on tours for study and research of any nature and those visiting medical treatment resorts and spas are also tourists, as also are those who travel for entertainment of a perverse nature like sexual gratification and pedophilia.

Two types of tourism that merit attention are pilgrimage tourism and ecotourism.

Pilgrimage (religious) tourism attracts a large number of people. Tourism operators tend to exploit this situation. Very often, pamphlets, brochures and guides themselves give incorrect and/or exaggerated information.

Ecotourism as defined by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) is ‘responsible travel to natural areas which conserves the environment and sustains the well being of the local peopleÂ’. The Church must support and promote ecotourism which meets the afore quoted definition.

The phenomenal growth of the tourism industry, which keeps expanding in volume as well as geographically, provides employment to millions of people the world over, as promoters, agents, operators, workers and all others occupied in ancillary activities. It also attracts others not still employed or not satisfied with the type of work they are engaged in or are tempted to explore new avenues for greater gains. This in turn opens floodgates of competition leading to creativity and innovations to satisfy the needs, desires and demands of the tourist. However, unfortunately, unethical trends creep in and deface the scenario.

Finally, there are those who reside in destination locations. They are perforce compelled to struggle with a much higher cost of living, deprivation of basic amenities in necessary measure and a degraded environment. In most cases, they do not derive benefits commensurate with what they sacrifice and are not partakers of the profits made from the use of their land and their resources. The major chunk of the profits is gobbled by the multi-national chains of hotels and travel agencies.

3. Impact of Tourism on Human life and Nature:

The activity of Tourism has a very great impact on different aspects of human life and nature (the fragile eco-systems and environment).

In brief:

Beneficial effects of tourism:

- Provides employment to a large number of people with a potential for employing many more.

- Foreign exchange earner, an important consideration for Third World Countries with weak currencies.

- Affords an opportunity for interaction (social, cultural, intellectual, scientific) with people from different parts of the world.

- Promotion and development of the tourism destination.

Adverse impact:

- Social Costs: Permissive life-style of foreign tourists, nudism and massage on the beaches, rave and acid parties lead local youth to experiment in drugs and sex. Women are imaged as sex symbols, projecting a totally false impression of women, youth, specially young girls and children. Many of them are lured into a sophisticated sex trade. Pedophiles and sex tourists spread AIDS besides causing a host of moral and psychological problems. School drop-out rate is high in the tourism ‘spotsÂ’. Noise pollution (specially during late night parties) causes great harm, disrespecting the rights and needs of the local population. On-shore and off-shore casinos may ruin entire families. All these contribute largely towards a breakdown of personal and family values, and introduce moral permissiveness.

- Ecological and environmental effects: Destruction of protective sand dunes, construction of high rise buildings in the ecologically fragile coastline, overdrawal of underground water by the resorts. Piling up of non-biodegradable plastic waste, sewerage pollution of the porous coastal soil and wells - all of which constitute a serious health hazard.

Excessive demands on local resources:

- Across the coastal belt acres of prime seaside land occupied by luxury resorts. Vast consumption of scarcely available water and electricity. High cost of essential food items.

- Displacement of sustainable economic activities like fishing, coastal plantations and ancillary industries resulting in displacement of traditional communities like fisherfolk, farmers etc.

- Commercialization of culture degrades the traditional folk-art: music, song and dance for profit and make of it a shallow and loud entertainment, giving a distorted image of the native culture.

- Mass tourism governed by large business corporations and market forces cripples local small-scale enterprise.

- Short sighted and ambitious short term planning and haphazard, hurried implementation destroys Â“sustainable tourism” and introduces unhealthy competition and breeding of anti-social elements like touts to exploit tourists.

4.    Focus On Some Aspects:

*  Each region or a smaller area of it has a rich diversity of nature - a home of unique flora and fauna - a precious gift to the people, which possibly can become a tourist attraction. It needs to be respected seriously, protected jealously and promoted vigorously. This commitment must be projected very clearly through any code enacted and norms adhered to. Paradoxically, this very bounty has been targeted in the eagerness to develop such places into tourist spots, resulting in their degradation. In the past few decades, the situation in certain places which were ‘favourable destinationsÂ’ are now by passed. Through overdevelopment, disregarding ecological balance, sanitation and hygiene, and violating rules and regulations wherever they are in force, through corrupt practices; these places have not only reached saturation point, but have degenerated ecologically and environmentally. Worse, when mainstream tourism agencies “dump” such destinations, the existing infrastructure is not viable for alternate occupations, so the service providers of the different sectors collude and resort to other income generating activities like gambling and sex trade.


*  The distinct identity of the local community must be witnessed through their various cultural forms of language, customs, dress, food, visual art, music and song, specially folklore. Heritage landmarks must be preserved to describe the past. This alone can inspire the visitors to know, understand and appreciate cultural forms different from their own. Sadly, with the pressure to please and compete, the manifold forms of entertainment offered disregard the authentic folklore and rich cultural traditions. What is offered in the name of modernism is a distorted presentation tangibly artificial, evoking a negative response and defeating the very purpose of cross-cultural exchange.

*  Governments in most Third World Countries promote tourism to profit from stronger foreign currencies. In Asia, the ideal tourist destinations are coastal areas where traditional occupations like fishing, farming and ancillary small scale industries flourished. These have proven to be economically sustainable as against the seasonal, fickle nature of tourism. The cost of living in tourist destinations is significantly higher than in other parts of the region. Besides, the influx of tourists places a tremendous stress on basic amenities like water, electricity and public transport, putting the local community to hardships.

*   Hospitality, a well-known and much appreciated trait of the orientals, turns into a saleable commodity in the grossly commercialised tourism trade. Consequently, there is erosion of the traditional value system of the ‘host communityÂ’ resulting in dishonest dealings in every sphere, including even medical services.

*  Exposure of the “service providers” and residents to the luxurious and liberal life-style of the tourists disturbs the intrinsic value-systems of the former, luring them towards consumerism and permissive behaviour. Those most affected are the youth.

*  Unfortunately, in spite of the strenuous efforts of dedicated organisations and the Church towards elimination of sex-trade in many tourism destinations exploiting the abject poverty of a large section of people in the Third World Countries, it continues to flourish. The victims are adolescents and youth, snared from their villages by beguiling them with offers of decent jobs and sold for sex trade.

5.   A Hope-Filled Future Apostolate of Tourism

Having re-viewed most aspects of the Tourism situation as it presently is, a legitimate question which may be asked is whether there has been anything new that is being expounded, proposed or suggested regarding the Pastoral Care of Tourism particularly from the point of view of the people visited in the Third World Countries. It must be admitted that not much that is significantly new has been conveyed in this paper. Definitely it is not an indicator of any type of negligence on the part of those directly addressing the issues of tourism. Much is being done by volunteer groups and Church bodies to bring about awareness of the problems and motivate society at large to take effective remedial action. However, the unlimited resources available to those in the Industry and the magnitude of its promotion eclipse the endeavours of the other less powerful organisations and minimize the  effectiveness of their apostolate. This itself is a challenge that must be faced by the Church with wider and more persistent co-ordination and networking. Fortunately, among recent other documents of the Church, the “Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of Tourism” (2001) of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People appear to have taken into proper consideration the different realities and situations of specific significance and concern to the Pastoral Care of Tourism in todayÂ’s world, with special reference also to the Third World Countries.

However, this paper - with its proposals and suggestions for concrete pastoral action on the part of the Church and its post-conciliar structures or institutions specially at the local diocesan/parish level - is strongly motivated and inspired by the insistent and frequent call of John Paul II in recent years to look at the Church and ourselves in the Church as a communion of communities, while telling us that Â“to make the Church the home and the school of communionÂ… is the great challenge facing us in the millennium which is now beginning”. To this effect, the Holy Father continues, we need Â“to promote a spirituality of communion making  it the guiding principleÂ…(with) an ability to think of our brothers and sisters in faith as ‘those who are a part of meÂ’Â… to see what is positive in others, not only as a gift for the brother or sister who has received it directly, but also as a ‘gift for meÂ’Â… to know how to make room for our brothers and sisters bearing ‘each otherÂ’s burdensÂ’ (Gal 6:2) and resisting the selfish temptations which constantly beset us and provoke competition, careerism, distrust and jealousy” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, n. 43). Indeed, its need is highlighted by the Holy Father in the face of todayÂ’s challenges for the Church in the Third Millennium, as “the spirituality of communion, by prompting a trust and openness wholly in accord with the dignity and responsibility of every member of the People of God, supplies institutional reality with a soul”  (N.M.I., n. 45).

It is in this spirit and the vision of the Church for the Third Millennium that an appeal is made and expectations raised that, particularly at the level of the local diocesan/parish Church, we shall accept the challenge to learn, appreciate and adopt the spirituality of communion which, with the help of God and the cooperation of all concerned, will enable us to take appropriate steps in order to help promote the process of a genuine Pastoral Care of Tourism among us. Some proposals are presented below: 

Vision:  A renewed tourism world, wherein people enrich their lives in encounters that safeguard the dignity of every person, respect diverse cultural heritages, protect and promote the earthÂ’s integrity and thus foster harmony and peace. 


I.     To sensitize the visitor/tourist to:

1. Respect the cultural norms, beliefs and religious practices and places of worship of the host population.

2. Avoid display of wealth and extravagant living when in third world destinations.

3. Uphold the human dignity of the ‘host community’ and refrain from exploiting any one for illicit gratifications.

4. Avoid wastage of water, food and other items generally in short supply in these regions.

5. Opt for alternative/echo tourism packages that do not degrade the local environment and harm the economy.

II.   To empower the service providers and their employees to resist the ill effects of tourism by:

1. Preserving the regionÂ’s ecological balance when setting up resorts and other structures.

2. Strictly adhering to all regulations and norms in force.

3. Preventing environmental degradation through proper disposal of plastic and other waste, a bane of tourist destinations.

4. Resisting the temptation to compete at all costs on the principle that ‘the customer is always right’ and provide services like those of gambling, supplying illicit drug and sex (call-girls, gigolos and children).

5. Resisting the lure of imitating the consumerist culture of the luxury tourists.

6. Upholding social justice in all aspects and at all levels.

III.   To actualise the preferential option for the powerless/poor by advocating the following for temporary, contract and daily-wage workers:

1. Just service conditions and salaries.

2. Healthy environment, adequate basic amenities, fully operational safety equipment and provisional medical care on the premises.

3. In-service training in basic skills (with a certificate on completion), if unskilled.

4. Facilities for rest and entertainment (with their families and other dependents).

5. Provisions for the future, including avenues of alternate employment, if retrenched.

IV.   To conscientize the leadership (political and administrative) in the countries of destination from the local village level to the highest policy making bodies of the State on the:

1. Ill effects of mass commercial tourism vis-a-vis alternative tourism.

2. Need to protect sustainable traditional occupations from being displaced  

 by tourism related economic ventures.

3. Need to control tourism related activities to prevent over-development that will kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

4. Need to regulate tourist inflow keeping in mind the regionÂ’s carrying capacity so that the local population is not deprived of basic living amenities.

5. Need to promulgate and effectively implement legislative measures to protect the ecology and environment of the region, including noise pollution created by the entertainment industry.

6. Need to ensure that the authorities enforce relevant ‘law and order regulations’ to prevent drug peddling, sex trade and other criminal activities commonly associated with leisure tourism.


Suggestions for Promotion of Humane Tourism

A.  At all levels:

Appropriate Paradigm Shifts are to be accepted and adopted specially with regard to:

1) A healthy (Christian) preferential option for the poor, the marginalized and exploited sections of the people in our society.

2) A comprehensive and humanizing counter-culture against the fast-spreading dehumanizing culture of individualism, materialistic consumerism, hedonism, greedy capitalism, cut-throat competition, politics of communalism, violence, etc.,  in order to promote a culture that will be “person-oriented and other-centered”.

3) Promoting a Globalization of Solidarity for the marginalized, about which Pope John Paul II has the following to say in Pastores Gregis, n. 69: “When globalization is joined to the dynamism of solidarity, it is no longer a source of marginalization. Indeed, the globalization of solidarity is a direct consequence of that universal charity which is the heart of the Gospel”.

B.  At The Ecumenical and Secular Level

1) Network with Christian Churches of other denominations and like-minded volunteer Group/Organisations.

2) Enter into an inter-religious dialogue on the issue.

3) Organize programmes to create awareness and motivation of target groups (tourists, service providers and their employees, host population, policy makers). Such programmes will need to include talks, written information and exposure.

4) Lobby with government and other policy makers to legislate and implement provisions to protect the regionÂ’s ecology and environment as well as the economic well being and social fabric of the host population.

C.  At the Diocesan and Parish Level:

1) Dioceses which have tourism destinations in their jurisdiction will need to conduct a socio-economic analysis of the impact of tourism in the locality. Such an analysis will have to be a detailed study. Other dioceses could also conduct a limited survey of tourism movement.

2) Identify parishes where the impact of tourism is felt.

3) Formulate a plan of action to meet the objectives given above.

4) Organise training of priests and other religious/lay animators to attend to the pastoral needs of:

a) The tourists.

b) Those adversely affected by tourism.

c) The different categories of service providers.

5) In places where Christian shrines/monuments are visited by tourists

whether in a spirit of pilgrimage or for their historical or architectural value, efforts should be made to present the regionÂ’s Christian heritage. Such representation should be adapted to suit the mindset of the average tourist who expects any information in attractive packages like Â“sound and light” shows.

6) Dioceses which have tourist destinations in their areas should develop websites for information of the visitor. In these websites particular attention should be given to provide information with regard to:

i) The religious identity and purpose of Christian monuments/shrines that are tourist attractions.

ii) The places and timings of Eucharistic celebrations conducted in different languages other than the local language.

iii) Addresses of the local parish cells dealing with pastoral care of Tourism.

These websites should be made available to all the dioceses in the world for information of their flock who plan to holiday/tour.

Structures for Pastoral Care of Tourism      

The implementation of the plans at various levels for effective pastoral care of tourism calls for the establishment of suitable new structures at different levels, ultimately under the guidance, inspiration and competent responsibility of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People:

A.  Episcopal Conferences of Each Country could establish a team/commission comprising clergy/religious and lay persons, if possible with representations of all stakeholders, to:

*  Co-ordinate action plans of the different dioceses.

*  Network with like minded groups at the national level.

*  Lobby with the government authorities and agencies at the national level.


B.  Each Diocese and Parish could set up:

*  A diocesan team to work independently or as part of the appropriate diocesan centre/commission.

*  A diocesan guild of catholic service providers like hoteliers, travel agents, tour guides, event organisers and organisers of sports (water-sports, golf, trekking, paragliding etc.)

*  Parish cells in parishes which have tourist spots in their jurisdiction.


Pastoral Care of Catholic Tourists

At the Diocesan Level:

1. Establish a chaplaincy office at a centrally located place, where a priest and/or at least one more trained person is/are permanently (during office-hours) available. These persons should know the national language, English and preferably another foreign language. Celebration of the Eucharist, administration of the sacraments, counselling and any relevant service should be rendered to the visitors.

2. In highly favoured ‘tourism spotsÂ’ an office should be established, and a chaplain appointed who will work in collaboration with the parish cell members. 


The mission of Jesus Christ was to liberate and humanise the world. This message is very forcefully proclaimed in what is now known as the ‘Jerusalem ManifestoÂ’ of Jesus of Nazareth. (Luke 4:16-21).  Jesus said, “I came to give them life and give it in all its fullness”. (Jn. 10:10) His plea to the Father was, “May they all be one, Father, as You and I are one”. (Jn. 17:21). The continuation of the redeeming mission of Christ is entrusted to the Church. Enlightened by the Holy Spirit and emboldened with His courage we, the Church must become the instrument of reconciliation and communion. The pastoral care of tourism is one of the important missions of the Church. The commitment of those involved in the apostolate should be for a concerted effort at all levels (as suggested above) so that the right to rest, recreation and interaction with other communities becomes more fulfilling physically, mentally, socially and most of all spiritually, bringing all of humanity closer in a true communion of communities, so that GodÂ’s everlasting love is a living experience.