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Happy World Tourism Day 2011

By Carissa Bluestone

Can sharing a tradition, a story or just a smile really change the world? Maybe not, but according to the theme for this year’s World Tourism Day—“Tourism: Linking Cultures”—the moments of joy, honesty and understanding we experience while travelling have global significance.

The holiday, created by the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization in 1979, is—in the words of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon—a time to “recognize tourism as a force for a more tolerant, open and united world.” The idea is that anyone can be an ambassador for cross-cultural communication.

The official celebration is taking place in Aswan, Egypt, where think tanks, various ministers of tourism and decision-makers will take part in panels on how tourism can foster peaceful coexistence. Other “celebrations” planned around the world vary wildly in tone, from flash mobs in Budapest to free dental care for underprivileged children in Arequipa, Peru.

Ultimately, even in its 32nd year, World Tourism Day still seems to lack the unifying set of goals or sense of fun that other global holidays like Earth Day offer. Too bad. We’d love to a real exploration and debate around the impact of tourism in all its forms—or an all-out celebration of the joys of travel.

Some of that debate and discussion will be happening locally, in Toronto, where Gap Adventures is hosting a “Future of Tourism” event to talk about what travel, particularly sustainable travel, will look like in this decade; you can access the live webcast via the event’s website.

To contribute your thoughts about World Tourism Day, check out the UNWTO’s Facebook page and Twitter feed. Leave your own thoughts on how tourism can link disparate cultures: Just remember to tag your tweets with #WTD2011.

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