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Message for World Tourism Day 2019

A better future for all


[The following is a translation of the message of the Cardinal Prefect of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development for this year’s World Tourism Day, observed annually on 27 September.]

Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson


“Tourism and Jobs: A better future for all” is the theme of the next World Tourism Day scheduled to take place on 27 September. Sponsored by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (unwto), the theme recalls the “Future of Work” initiative promoted by the International Labour Organization (ilo) which celebrates its centenary this year.

The decision to focus on tourism from the perspective of employment is particularly timely in view of the deeply rooted and emerging critical factors in the vital dimension of work for countless people, across all latitudes. The desired objectives of peace, security, social advancement and inclusion cannot be reached if we neglect the joint commitment to ensure that everyone has dignified, fair, free employment built around the person and his or her primary needs of integral human development. Work “is proper to the human person. It expresses the dignity of being created in the image of God”,[1] Pope Francis has said. There can be no progress where there is no work and there certainly cannot be a better future. Work, which is not simply employment but the means through which man fulfills himself in society and the world, is an essential part in determining the integral development of both the person and the community in which he lives.

“We were created with a vocation to work” Pope Francis wrote in his Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, noting that “work is a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfilment”.[2] “There can be no dignity without work”, Pope Francis said in a video message to participants attending the 48th Social Week for Italian Catholics (Cagliari, Italy, 26-29 October 2017).

As the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church states: “In fact there is no doubt that human work has an ethical value of its own, which clearly and directly remains linked to the fact that the one who carries it out is a person”.[3]

Referring specifically to tourism in his Message for the 24th World Tourism Day, Saint John Paul II further explained that this sector “should be considered as a special expression of social life with economic, financial and cultural implications, as well as consequences that are crucial to individuals and peoples. Its direct relationship with the integral development of the person must orient its service, as with other human activities, to building civilization in the most authentic and complete sense, that is, the civilization of love” (cf. Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, n. 33).[4]

To date there are numerous problems linked to employment in the various sectors of the tourism industry and its array of varied careers and specific jobs. Travel consultants and tour guides, chefs, sommeliers and waiters, flight attendants, animators, experts in tourism marketing and social networks, many of whom work in precarious and at times illegal conditions, for unfair pay, constrained to do a tiring job, often away from their families and at high risk of stress and subjected to the rules of aggressive competition.

There is also shameful exploitation of labour in poor countries that are highly committed to tourism due to their rich environmental and historical heritage, where the native people rarely benefit from the use of their local resources. Likewise unacceptable are the acts of violence against the host populations, the abuses against their cultural identity and all activities that cause degradation and unbridled exploitation of the environment.

In this regard, in 2003, Saint John Paul II highlighted that: “Tourist activity can play an important role in the fight against poverty, from the financial as well as the social and cultural viewpoints. Travelling provides an opportunity to become acquainted with different places and situations and to realize what a great gap exists between the rich and poor Countries. It is also possible to make a better use of local resources and activities, fostering the involvement of the poorer classes of the population”.[5]

In this sense, the potential for development provided by the tourism sector is notable both in terms of job opportunity and of human, social and cultural advancement; in particular, opportunities open to young people which foster individual improvement, perhaps through self employment initiatives in disadvantaged countries.

According to statistics published by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (unwto), at least one out of 11 jobs in the world is generated — indirectly or directly — by tourism, and these figures, which involve millions of people from all corners of the world, are on the rise. There is talk of an expanding cycle with enormous implications on the social, economic and cultural level which has exceeded the rosiest of expectations. Suffice it to say that in 1950 there were a little over 25 million international tourists, whereas estimates suggest that in the next decade the number of world travellers could reach two billion.

Considering this flow, the dimension of encounter that employment in the tourism industry can offer appears encouraging. In many cases, workers carrying out their daily duties at all levels of the industry have the opportunity to meet people from the most diverse parts of the world and to initiate that acquaintance which is the first step towards overcoming prejudice and stereotypes and towards building relationships based on friendship. Pope Francis spoke about tourism as an opportunity for encounter in his address to young people from the Youth Tourist Centre in March, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Association’s founding. The Pontiff expressed appreciation for their commitment to promote a “slow tourism” that is “not inspired by the canons of consumerism or eager only to accumulate experiences, but able to favour the encounter between people and the territory, and the growth of knowledge and mutual respect”.[6]

The Dicastery for Integral Human Development thus makes an appeal to all government leaders and to those responsible for national economic policies to promote jobs in the tourism industry, particularly for young people. Employment that places the dignity of the person at its centre, — as also recommended by the International Labour Organization (ilo) Global Commission on the Future of Work[7] — that acts as an instrument to foster the development of each man and of the whole man, that cooperates in the development of individual communities, each according to its distinctive characteristics, and that promotes the establishment of friendship and fraternity among individuals and among peoples.

We assure our closeness and our support to all those who are committed to the achievement of these goals, and we urge tourism managers and operators to gain awareness of the challenges and the opportunities that characterize work in the tourism industry. Finally, we wish to thank in particular pastoral workers for their daily commitment to ensuring that the Word of God may illuminate and invigorate this unique field of human life.

[1] Francis, Catechesis at the General Audience, 19 August 2015.

[2] Francis, Laudato Si’, 24 May 2015, n. 128.

[3] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church, n. 271.

[4] John Paul II, Message for the 24th World Day of Tourism, 2003.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Francis, Audience with Directors and Associates of the Youth Tourist Centre, 22 March 2019.

[7] Cf. Work for a Brighter Future, Report of the Global Commission on the Future of Work, 22 January 2019; also available at:

(from: L'Osservatore Romano, english weekly edition, n.31, 2/08/2019)