From fostering cultural tolerance to bolstering government functionality, delve into how sustainable tourism practices correlate with positive peace indices, offering insights into fostering global harmony.

The movement of people all around the world is much more than a leisurely escape from the rigours of daily life. IEP’s research finds that the strongest link between tourism and peace can be found when analysing Positive Peace. IEP defines Positive Peace as the attitudes, institutions and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies.

Positive Peace is measured by the Positive Peace Index which is calculated upon eight distinct pillars, which IEP have deemed as the essential requirements for a peaceful society: sound business environment; good relations with neighbours; high levels of human capital; acceptance of the rights of others; low levels of corruption; a well-functioning government; free flow of information; and the equitable distribution of resources. The maintenance of an open and sustainable tourism sector will equate to high peace levels, particularly about the attitudes, institutions and structures that define peaceful societies.  

In an attempt to directly examine the relationship between tourism and peace, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) previously partnered with the IEP to develop a Tourism Index that can measure the prosperity of a country’s tourism sector, in relation to factors of sustainability and openness. Consensus found that there are four vital domains that must be accounted for: socio-cultural, economic, political and environmental. 

Countries with a more sustainable tourism sector tend to be more peaceful

In order for tourism to flourish, it must first be desirable. Tourism therefore has the ability to support peace regulation as pressure is put on governments to cease conflicts and establish trustworthy and harmonious relationships with citizens, to attract tourists and reap the economic benefits of tourism. A key example of this relationship in action is in Rwanda, where government-imposed efforts to clear landmines, invest in wildlife and rebuild the country’s image actively promoted gorilla trekking, making the country a sought-after destination for ecotourism.  

Figure 1 reveals the relationship between tourism openness and sustainability, and violence and conflict as measured by the Global Peace Index (GPI).  

Tourism has several immediate impacts on the Pillars of Positive Peace:

  • The movement of people globally ignites cultural exposure, and this often encourages people to take on a degree of tolerance and acknowledgement of the rights of others.   
  • Tourism sustainability can also influence government functionality, as governments are positioned to respond to changes in demand and the need to create a welcoming environment that will encourage further tourism expansion. In Nepal the government response to increased tourism was the implementation of Codes of Conduct for Peace Responsive Tourism. 
  • A range of skills become necessary for local populations when tourism grows. These include languages, business skills and human capital development. For example, in Namibia, the development of the tourism sector encouraged local communities to develop skills such as languages and trades such as cooking, which led to increased human capital development.  
  • As people travel, the flow of information both within a country and across borders is also expected to increase as people share experiences and ideas.   
  • A positive change in relations with neighbours may also be a byproduct of tourism as the act of travelling to neighbouring countries promotes understanding and tolerance of the other. 

Figure 2 shows the relationship between the Tourism Index and measures of Positive Peace, revealing a strong correlation that reflects the positive relationship between levels of positive peace and tourism sustainability. 

In non-conflict-affected countries, tourism is resilient to increases in violence and conflict

The truth of the modern world is that Earth is becoming an increasingly violent place, and IEP has been tracking this trend for some time. The 2023 GPI recorded the thirteenth deterioration in the peacefulness of the last fifteen years, year-on-year the greatest deteriorations stem from the indicators of external conflicts fought, deaths from internal conflict and political instability.

Increases in violent conflict in countries such as Ukraine, Russia, Haiti, Mali and Israel actively increase the number of displaced persons. Despite this, IEP’s previous research has found that there is a weak negative correlation, at a global level, between changes in the Tourism Index and changes in the Global Peace Index, indicating that even in non-conflict-affected countries, when the security situation deteriorates, tourism does not necessarily suffer. An exemption of course is the most recent example of the COVID-19 pandemic, which actively deteriorated tourism on a global scale in attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

Tourism and Terrorism   

Terrorism will have impacts on tourism, particularly when tourists become the deliberate target, as was the case in Egypt when a tourist bus was bombed in 2018, or the Tunisia beach shootings in 2015. However, IEP’s research finds that the impacts terrorist activity has on the tourism sector are short-lived. Often brought about by travel advisory warnings which cause short term decreases in tourist activity, after the situation cools down, tourism will often return to a healthy level if the threat of terrorist activity has declined. It is expected that repeated acts of terrorism in an area will have long-term effects on an area’s tourism levels.   

If there is one thing we should reflect on this coming World Tourism Day, it is the world we lived in when tourism and travel were not options. The COVID-19 pandemic’s halt on tourism was unprecedented and saw a range of negative outcomes such as civil struggle, job losses, declines in information spread and distrust among neighbouring states.

Whilst it was a source of deterioration for many during the pandemic, the path the world took out of the COVID-19 disaster was boosted by tourism and its ability to influence the building of Positive Peace. This article briefly summarises a body of research that has investigated global patterns and trends in peace and its relationship with tourism. Without delving into the complex discussions of causality or determinants, the proposition of tourism directly impacting peace invites many more avenues for research, discussion and data collection. 


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Jack Ellis

Communications Assitant

Vision of Humanity

Vision of Humanity is brought to you by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), by staff in our global offices in Sydney, New York, The Hague, Harare and Mexico. Alongside maps and global indices, we present fresh perspectives on current affairs reflecting our editorial philosophy.