Petition 80606

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Responsible Travel (80606-C1-R287)

The travel and tourism industry has become one of the fastest growing and largest sectors in the global economy. The annual revenues are second only to the weapons industry and, according to the United Nations, earnings from tourism are expected to triple in the next 20 years. The impact of travel and tourism on local economies, disadvantaged communities, women and children, indigenous peoples, and the environment has become a serious concern and requires thoughtful reflection by people of faith on our role as participants in these activities. . This necessitates a critical examination of the travel and tourism activities in which United Methodists engage . We are called by Scripture to be sojourners in ways which promote justice: Exodus 12:48-49—Sojourners are to abide by one law for both the native and for the stranger. Exodus 22:21—You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress [him/her], for you were a sojourner in the land of Egypt. Leviticus 19:34—When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do [him/her] wrong. The stranger who sojourns with you shall be as a native among you. You shall love [him/her] as yourself. 1 Peter 1:17—Conduct yourselves with reverent fear throughout the time of your exile (sojourning). To travel is not to take a vacation from our faith. Just as we are called to express hospitality by welcoming the stranger, we are also called to abide in love and justice with our neighbors when we visit them, whether near or far away. When sojourning in a strange land, travelers should behave with reverence and respect for the people, their culture, and the land upon which they live.  
Too often travel and tourism is exploitative as a result of the globalization of local economies in ways that transform self-sufficient communities into consumer-oriented and dependent societies. The impact of the travel industry can be viewed as a new form of colonialism in which local people are displaced and priced out of their own communities. Local people are most commonly employed in low-wage service positions without benefits. They are also faced with rising prices for basic needs such as food, transportation, and housing to meet the demand of tourists, hotels, and resorts. This disintegration of the local economy often leads to devastating social impacts such as the rise of alcoholism, drug abuse, prostitution, and sexually transmitted diseases. In the wake of this transformation, traditional knowledge and skills are forgotten, and the natural environment is exploited to meet the needs of a tourist economy. Exploitative travel and tourism also impacts women and children who become victims in sex trade or trafficking, child prostitution, and/or pornography. The sex tourism industry seeks out young girls, offering payments to their families under a guise to better their lives, and takes them away to brothels in large cities where traveling businessmen are approached as potential customers. Women may also be trafficked across international borders for use in sex trade. Children are caught in the sex trade at a young age, thus depriving them of schooling and opportunities to become active participants in society. These women and children are at high risk of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases and suffer long-term emotional pain. The impact of tourism is of particular concern to indigenous peoples. Tourism may exploit sacred sites such as burial grounds, ritual areas, and other places which hold  
significance in the cultural traditions of the indigenous peoples sometimes without their input or permission. Tourists may be offered tour packages which visit these sites, where the approval of indigenous peoples has not been sought. During such tours, tourists may trample over ancestral burial grounds or other such sacred sites, irrespective of the traditions of the indigenous peoples. God's creation, the natural environment, can also be a victim of exploitative tourism when the local resources are viewed as a commodity to be consumed by the tourist industry as resources, entertainment, or merely as a dumping ground for the waste products they produce. For example:  

  • Cruise lines that dump waste into the ocean;  
    • resort areas which do not comply with environmental standards by practicing energy and water conservation, as well as recycling and minimizing waste; and
      • golf course development around the world that results in deforestation, erosion, overconsumption of water, and pollution of ground water through the extensive use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
        If these exploitative practices continue, there will be no "paradise" left to which to travel. A just alternative to exploitative travel and tourism is "sustainable tourism." Sustainable tourism development in the travel industry should include the following principles: support for community and indigenous involvement in the planning, implementation, and monitoring of any tourism policies or development plans; and, wherever possible, ownership or joint venture of destination sites/travel programs;  
        • creation of tourist/travel programs that combat poverty by ensuring that a larger share of the profits and jobs generated by tourism remain in the local communities through purchases of local crafts, foods, and supplies;  
          • practice of travel behaviors that are respectful of cultural norms and traditions within the society; and  
            • development of forms of tourism that are not destructive to the local or global environment.  

              As United Methodists, we reaffirm our commitments to care for the environment, promote economic justice, advocate for women and children, support the economic sustainability of disadvantaged communities, and uphold the rights of indigenous peoples to preserve their culture regarding our own travel, patronage of the tourist industry, or the travel of fellow United Methodists, including that of the general agencies. We call upon Therefore, The United Methodist Church calls on , its general agencies, annual conferences, and members of local churches to do the following model sustainable travel and tourism and to reflect on the following when traveling:
            • Does the travel respect and protect God’s Creation? Are there ways to lower and/or offset carbon emissions from the mode of transportation? Is the travel respectful of resources in and the natural habitat of the  community being visited?
              • Are the products / souvenirs purchased on travel locally produced using sustainable materials(e.g. no threatened species of plants or animals)?
            • Does the travel respect and strengthen the community being visited? Is the visit respectful of local culture and customs? Are members of the local community fully involved in and benefiting from the site visits and cultural experiences? Is the tourist revenue being shared by the community? Are the workers in the restaurants, hotels and tour companies being paid a living wage? Are gratuities adequately provided?
            • How will the travel inform conversation and action upon returning home? What local stories and experiences will be communicated with colleagues,  friends and family? What successes and / or challenges of the local community can be connected to actions at home? What organizations advocate for policies and reforms that would further strengthen the community and empower local residents to address systemic challenges?
      (Delete remainder of current resolution)  
      See Social Principles, ΒΆ 165A, B, and D.