Isabel Cocker/The Santiago Times
LOS ANGELES – The World Tourism Cities Federation annual summit has opened in Los Angeles with a ceremony dedicated to discussion of the impacts of globalization on the tourism market, especially on an urban level.
Speaking at the ceremony Wednesday, Mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti underlined the importance of tourism as a way of feeling common humanity and unity. Making a brief reference to current international issues, he suggested that the tourist sector could find ways of building bridges between communities and countries, forging relationships.
“Tourism brings the best of us together, it is a way for everyone to unite”, he declared. He stated that Los Angeles in particular feels the impact of tourism, and the pressure to be a global city, but that it is able to reap the benefits of opening itself to an international audience which brings new ideas and cultures.
The Executive Director of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Zhu Shanzhong, also echoed Garcetti, commenting on the way in which tourism creates social inclusion and appreciation for diversity around the world. He called it an “indispensable ally” to the modern city, not only from a social view, but also from an economic standpoint.
Shanzhong highlighted the economic contribution of world tourism, which accounts for 10% of global GDP and incorporates as many as 1 in 11 jobs globally.
However, there were comments raised in the opening ceremony of the “massification” of tourism, with Barcelona and Venice held up as examples of where the equilibrium of co-existence between tourist and citizen has been unbalanced.
Both of these Mediterranean cities have been in the news recently for protests from inhabitants of their cities, who feel like their normal life is being pushed back into the shadows by the prevalence of the tourist trade, which threatens to overcome everything else. Some critics also have complained that such mass tourism, the boom of which has been brought on by recent globalization, causes leaching of culture, so that tourist cities lose their individuality and unique history.
The remainder of the conference will discuss the issues of this globalization through forums and panels. It was described in the opening ceremony as both a prevailing trend, but also a danger to individual culture and history. It is a double-edge sword, and one that the Federation will be trying to tame through the inter-weaving web of partner cities working together to collaborate on shared solutions.