Speech by the Minister of Culture and Tourism Pavlos Yeroulanos in Aswan, Egypt, on the occasion of Word Tourism Day, at the conference of the World Tourism Organisation
Ladies and Gentlemen: It is my firm belief that travel will define the 21st century. Peace and prosperity in the 21st century will not be about how fast we move capital towards one another, but how well we understand and learn from one another. Our urge to explore is unprecedented and becoming universal. It reaches […]
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is my firm belief that travel will define the 21st century.
Peace and prosperity in the 21st century will not be about how fast we move capital towards one another, but how well we understand and learn from one another.
Our urge to explore is unprecedented and becoming universal. It reaches beyond borders, beyond peoples, beyond economic classes. More and more of us are traveling further and further to get to work, to get to profit, to get to leisure. We are experiencing the paradox that the smaller our world becomes the further we want to travel.
Two days ago I was in Los Angeles at a conference of the American Association of Retired People. A 40 million member organization. I sat next to a lady that looked all but retired. A beautiful woman full of life and full of dreams. Dreams she could touch.
«I traveled the States. I traveled the Americas. And now I am heading to Europe. I want to see it all» she said to me. She was holding a book titled «100 Things to do Before You Die». Please note: 100 things to do! – not a 100 beaches to lie on.
Before the century is over this will be in the minds of millions of people from Europe and the Americas but also from China, the former Soviet Republics, India and Africa.
Never in the history of humanity have so many people wanted to go so far in such a little time. And as beach and warm weather are becoming commodities, culture and nature will become the main reason for travel.
Who we are and where we come from, what we believe in and what we value, how we live and what we aspire to, will be the reason people come to see us. Experiences, not locations, will become the strong currency of travel. And experiences are about sharing values.
If the 20th century was about making one set of values global, the 21st century will be about making your own values relevant to the world.
If the 20th century was a celebration of all things we have in common, the 21st century will be about what makes us unique and how that makes the world a richer place. And that is a very exciting prospect.
That is why I chose to deliver my message for World Tourism Day from Egypt. As more and more people travel out of their countries to meet who we are, the more and more we will be able to cooperate to make their experience worth it. If until now we competed on who can get more people on our beaches, from now on we should cooperate to bring more people in our homes.
Our beaches are, more or less, the same. But our homes are different. And the more our differences enrich their lives, the more we will enjoy the fruits of our cooperation. I came here on World Tourism Day to say that I am committed to building partnerships: a partnership with Egypt and I am delighted to see that my good friend Mounir Abdel Nour feels the same way about our future together.
As Greece and Egypt alone, we each offer a lot. But as Greece and Egypt together we offer the cradle of civilization and that is something few others can claim.
Thank you Mounir for welcoming me to your country. As we set out to conquer this new frontier we shall meet many opportunities. But we will also meet two important challenges:
The first challenge is a question we need to answer honestly: «Is there a time when the customer is not right»? Or otherwise put «How can we maintain who we are and the values we share while serving the needs of those who are different than us»?
There is a fine line we should never cross when choosing to service a customer: When their demands destroy what makes us different. When their wants water down all that others are here to see.
Environmental and cultural destruction is the same as killing the goose with the golden egg. It is not only immoral. It is also uneconomical. And if that is not the definition of sustainability, I don’t know what is. Immoral and uneconomical is also the second challenge we face. Deciding who can and who cannot cross our lands. Unfortunately, as our world becomes smaller we are building higher walls.
Our wall is called Schengen. A European agreement that has lost its purpose. Coming from Greece maybe I should say: «Another European agreement that has lost its purpose».
I fully respect the need of any region to safeguard its workforce. In fact, I believe that safeguarding our workforce is a value which defines who we are and as such it should be kept sacred.
But applying for a visa is not the illegal way into Europe. So we should not treat a visa applicant as a threat. While a European bureaucrat with no special training, often with no manners, is interviewing one person in his embassy, thousands are crossing the borders of Europe illegally. In the wrong hands the process can seem racist. And it is killing the possibilities of working together effectively.
Although the European Union will do anything to help most of its industries it is hampering tourism through a process that has proven irrelevant. And that is plain wrong.
I asked an over eager employee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs how many cases are known in Greece of people who have violated the Schengen Visa. With emphasis he said: «Minister, we have more than 700 cases».
We welcome 15 million visitors a year. And have more than 700.000 illegal workers in Greece. This is less than one in a thousand. Even the American Embassy allows for a 3% fault rate. But we are tensed about an 1 in one thousand fault rate. I answered: «You are guarding the keyhole while they are coming through the windows.
We desperately need to review access. And the idea of an e-Visa sounds more and more relevant. In Europe, we Greeks have been strong proponents of reviewing the process and strong allies of those who want access. But it will take time because Europe is scared. And the urge to feel they are doing something has overtaken their capacity to actually do. That is a very dangerous place to be. Especially when you are dealing with the future and how to make it better.
As I look across this room I see some old and some new friends. I see friends who share in the idea that the world will become a better place even if we manage to do only one thing right. And that is to allow the lady I met in Los Angeles to live her dream. Her dream shared by millions around the world will define ours and our children’s century.
This is a goal I am proud to serve.
And happy to be doing it with partners as yourselves.