Pope Benedict’s message for the World Day of Tourism 2007 on the theme: “Tourism opens doors for women”

26 Sep 2007


26th September 2007

Pope Benedict’s message for the World Day of Tourism 2007


The following message, from His Eminence Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone on behalf of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has been conveyed to Dr Francesco Frangialli, Secretary General of the World Tourism Organisation, on the occasion of the XXVIII World Day of Tourism on 27 September 2007. This theme for this year’s World Day of Tourism is: “Tourism opens doors for women”.


Dear Dr. Frangialli,

The World Tourism Day will be celebrated next 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 twentieth century has passed on to the twenty-first 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% of the work force 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, world 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 chamber maid, 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. Yet, the large number of men and women tourists travelling across the world creates an encounter of mindsets, increasingly internationalizes models of life and opens people to different customs. All this implies the possibility for positive developments. For these to take place, those in charge of the World Tourism Organization, National States together with regional agencies, large companies in this category, trade unions and tourist associations must create structures and allocate financial resources to protecting, developing and keeping alive the moral, cultural and social structure of respect for women and their effective growth in this sector.

Every tourist, whatever his/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 him/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 the necessary must be done 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 through this encounter.

In her structured and multi-facetted vision, the Church obviously always aspires to keeping 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 trump card 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 this most 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,
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone
Secretary of State
Vatican City, 20 August 2007

Notes for Editors

  • The main purpose of World Tourism Day is to foster awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic values. See www.world-tourism.org
  • Each year, the organizations belonging to the United Nations System celebrate world days devoted to the United Nations: world peace; human rights; health; literacy; environment; womanhood; childhood; cooperation for development; meteorology; telecommunications, etc.
  • World Tourism Day is commemorated on 27 September each year by appropriate events on themes selected by the General Assembly, on recommendation of UNWTO’s Executive Council. This date was chosen to coincide with an important milestone in world tourism: the anniversary of the adoption of the UNWTO Statutes on 27 September 1970.

Further information:
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Kathy Tynan Communications Officer (086 817 5674)