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Rethinking Tourism and The Art of Living Together

Just over a week ago, the 27th of September was World Tourism Day, the special day dedicated by the United Nations to observe and celebrate tourism with this year’s theme being

Rethinking Tourism

The UN states that “Tourism’s International Observance Day will put people at the center of key discussions. Where is tourism going? Where do we want to go? And how do we get there?World Tourism Day | United Nations.

These are valid questions and as a traveller through life and living a romanticised simple life on a Greek island, 'rethinking tourism' made me stop and reflect.

As an Australian citizen far away from home since the beginning of 2020, I have been fortunate to enjoy a simple life on the Greek Island of Naxos where I arrived at the beginning of June this year when the tourist season had started to be in full swing.

I have been blessed to be able to rent a typical little old Greek house in the village of Vivlos, also known as Tripodes. It is a little place for me to call home away from the major tourist areas. The local community has made me feel most welcome and I feel blessed having made wonderful new connections and new friends.

Now the tourist season in Naxos is coming to an end and many shops, cafes, restaurants and accommodation places have already closed their doors, in anticipation to reopen again in 2023.

Naxos, not unlike other places around the world is witnessing a rise in popularity by international visitors and is now clearly developing as a major tourist destination. More accommodation is being built across the island, and the airport infrastructure is planned to be upgraded.

Conversations with shops owners and locals confirm a global trend of older homes being renovated to be let via Airbnb. This means limited availability and affordability of rentals for locals and those who come to Naxos to work in the tourism and hospitality sector during the holiday season.

Repeat visitors have commented on sunbeds taking over the beachfronts and a greater sense of commercialisation in the popular tourist areas. At the same time the updates I read in the Greek news and social media indicate that the idea of sustainable tourism development is sought and discussed.

When COVID-19 hit the global stage, and throughout the coronavirus pandemics over the last two and a half years, many of us have asked:

Are we going back to the ‘old ways’ of doing things or are we embracing

new ways of living and new ways of

doing travel and tourism?

The theme of this year's World Tourism Day 'Rethinking Tourism' reminded me of the theme of the recent International Day of Peace on September 21 which served to raise concerns of inequality and peaceful co-existence.

End racism. Build peace.

Secretary-General António Guterres stated that racism “destabilizes societies, undermines democracies, erodes the legitimacy of governments, and… the linkages between racism and gender inequality are unmistakable.” International Day of Peace | United Nations.

It is apparent that racism continues to be a major contributor to conflict around the world, in our places we call home and in places far away. As alluded to by the statement by Secretary-General António Guterres above, sexism also remains of major concern in our peace building efforts, with gender inequality being experienced by many in society at large and within the context of travel and tourism.

While it may not be linked to the notion of racism directly, or gender for that matter, United Nation's 'Taking a stand against ageism' (ageism awareness day held this year on 07 October) also highlights the need to consider the often not openly acknowledged prejudice, discrimination and inequality affecting many in the age category of 'older persons'. Ageism is a global challenge: UN ( At the same time, senior tourism is recognised as a lucrative special interest tourism segment, especially in view of the growing ageing population.

It is easy to forget that our travels are part of our social world and overall life, and that tourism is a microcosm of society at large as highlighted by Her Highness Shaika Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, President of the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities in 2020. Her viewpoint resonates with the fact that

The Joy of Travel

Is about

The Art of Travel

As much as

The Art of Living Together

The Art of Living Together in essence captures the fact that we as travellers on our journey through life are visitors here on mother earth and that we are all part of a highly interconnected web of life with rights and responsibilities.

Surrounded by the bombardment of information accessible via cyberspace, it is hard to escape the overt and subliminal influence of a judgmental, sexualised and individualistic culture. Many have commented that we are living, working and travelling in a culture that is inflicted by traits of patriarchy, narcissism, and an anti-relational sentiment. From Toxic Individualism to Relational Security with Terry Real (179) - Therapist Uncensored.

We are living in a culture where prejudice and a sense of entitlement feed into inequalities and conflict in all relationships, at macro and micro level. It is our daily life experiences that contribute to how we view the world around us and us in it. Not only our past experiences but also our present-day cultural encounters leave their mark on our thoughts, feelings and behaviour - at home as much as when we travel to places others call home.

With the above in mind, it is worthwhile to briefly consider the famous quote by Mark Twain, which suggests that

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness”.

In many ways travel continues to be romanticised and accredited with being cathartic, therapeutic, and transformative. However, while travel has the capacity to widen our horizons, it does not automatically lead to the abandonment of prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness. This requires some mindful engagement, some reflection and introspection rather than mindlessly operating on autopilot.

After all, when we travel and also when we are at the place we call home, we always carry with us our metaphorical backpacks that are filled with our individual emotional and cultural scripts. These and our unquestioned beliefs and habitual patterns of behaviour may lead to new stereotypes or reinforce old ones, with discriminatory attitudes and behaviour potentially resulting in both inner and outer conflict - in personal relationships, society at large, and in the context of tourism.

A climate of unease and apprehension, anxiety and fear of the unknown in the here and now and in the future is evident all around us, in society at large and also in our private lives.

As a means to soothe our individual and societal sense of vulnerability and overwhelm, self-care and self-actualisation are highly promoted nowadays. And tourism is a context that offers those who can afford to travel ways to recreate, re-invigorate, and re-imagine themselves.

In some ways the focus on self-care, which appears to be at the forefront of what matters most to many, has taken away from the idea of self-transcendence (Maslow, 1943) that is relevant in our consideration of empathy, compassion and mutuality. Mutuality is our acceptance and appreciation that everyone's needs matter and deserve to be met as best as possible, at any place and time in a caring way, with travel and tourism being no exception.

Mutuality is imperative in our aspirations for equality and peace.

While the notion of peace might stir thoughts of inequality and conflict at macro level, this is also of concern at the micro level in our private lives. Bridging the gap of inequalities remains a major moral issue, with individual and group perceptions, or biases contributing directly and indirectly to the inequalities we witness and experience through media and in person.

Mapping polarities and acknowledging our biases are valued steps in narrowing the gaps that divide us. Just for a moment, let us consider the biases we harbour towards others, if not in fact also towards ourselves. Let us just briefly think about instances where our unquestioned believes and assumptions have pushed us into self-protective mechanisms that have and might still undermine any potential for equality, true loving connections and peace.

I believe that without continuous questioning and reflecting on our enculturated patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting, our emotional and cognitive biases along with our habitual ways of being in this world will persist. Regularly revisiting what we, others around us, and our environment most urgently need keeps us attuned to the big picture of the world we live in.

In response to 'Rethinking Tourism', my reflections have once again confirmed in me that we benefit from embarking on journeys into our inner worlds as much as our outer world. It is the deep exploration of these intertwined worlds that offers us insight and strength to show compassionate empathy and act out of a sense of mutuality. When we dare to care and connect with authenticity and integrity can we stand up for ourselves and others.

In the end we are all co-creators of our life experiences and those of others, including the experience of equality and peace. Our peace aspirations require us to approach travel and tourism and life in general with a sense of responsibility and accountability beyond ourselves as individuals and beyond our in-groups. To enjoy rewarding connections and inner and outer peace we need to engage in critical mindfulness and take courage to live by the values we proclaim.

Rethinking Tourism requires all of us as stakeholders in this world of ours to

take a deep dive into our inner and outer worlds and embrace

new mindsets and indeed new heart-sets to

act out of love and not out of fear.

Naxos, 05 October 2022

@Birgit Trauer


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