Omar Moufakkir on Tourism for Peace

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The International Handbook on Tourism and Peace, just published, contains a chapter written by Omar Moufakkir, our new Tourism lecturer

Omar, you are a researcher and one of your main interests is Tourism and Peace.  Is there a strong link?

Absolutely. There is more to tourism than economics. Tourism brings people together. Tourism has the potential to contribute toward world peace in many different ways. My quest is to research how tourism can creatively contribute to peace. Tourism and immigration are two driving forces of intercultural encounters. It is all about whether or not people actually wish to encounter other cultures and learn from them.

As a researcher, I want to explore to what extent tourism makes tourists more tolerant and open minded….and to what extent does the host community become more tolerant and open minded toward other cultures. Tourism is all about contact between cultures. My research addresses ethical questions:

  • How can tourism reduce inequality between people within nations and between nations?
  • How can tourism facilitate integration?
  • How can tourism contribute to poverty eradication?
  • How can democracy be promoted through tourism?
  • How can tourism mitigate conflict?
  • How can tourism reduce prejudice?
  • How can tourism contribute to the reduction of global warming?

People are evolving and inventing new models, new tourism products, even new worlds. With these changes come challenges and opportunities. Technology is one of the developments that can change the face of tourism, and the way it impacts on peace.

In my studies, I distinguish three forms of peace:

  • Positive peace
  • Negative peace
  • Participatory peace…

Peace is an active concept. It is about doing things and contributing to society. It is the opposite of peacelessness. Peacelessness is when there is no peace, when there is the absence of harmony.

And what about the Dutch? How peaceful are we as a country?

I developed the concept of culture unrest. This is defined as “the context where  two cultures live together, but at a level of acceptance that has developed from a state of interest or curiosity to apathy, annoyance or even antagonism. We developed this conceptual model to assess the relationship between immigration, culture unrest and the willingness to travel to the destinations of the minorities.

Remember the first newcomers in the Netherlands? We called them gastarbeiders…so there was the notion of hospitality. This was based on the idea that people were here temporarily. The notion of guest implies a sense of hospitality, it means you are inviting somebody and taking an interest in them. Then, with the increasing numbers of immigrant workers and the change of policies, we accepted them as part of our society. What we see now, is hostility and antagonism—but these are phases in the culture unrest. What is happening in the Netherlands, people are not taking an interest. They are apathetic towards minority cultures.

Do you see positive signs too? 

In some countries, like Canada, people have moved on towards the stages of acceptance, adaptation and positive assimilation. Different cultures have been woven into the fabric of society and all citizens contribute to achieve this sense of harmony.

In my research I found that tourism can lessen apathy: the Dutch who visited Morocco have less negative perceptions about the Moroccan community living in the Netherlands than those who did not visit.

What are your plans as a lecturer? How do you want to involve students in your research?

I invite students to participate in my line of research and thinking. I will be teaching the new module Responsible Tourism. In the Expedition, I would love to invite students to grow cross-cultural understanding and citizenship—the Expedition seems a very good place for that.

What is your view on education?

Education should be about helping students to “become” in the world…which means you become somebody you aspire to become. You want to feel you contribute to the world and achieve some goodness. It is our task as teachers to help students to discover this goodness.

Omar Moufakkir’s books include:

  • Controversies in Tourism
  • The Host Gaze in Global Tourism
  • Tourism, Progress and Peace
  • To be published in 2014: Ideological, social and cultural aspects of events

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