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I would like to extend, from the Holy See, greetings to this important assembly of the World Tourism Organization. This is a fundamental step in the history of the organization because the World Tourism Organization has proposed to become a specialized institution of the United Nations.
The themes chosen for this assembly generate a thorough reflection on the present state of the world of tourism and of its ethical, social and economic potential.
The phenomenon of tourism has always been a vehicle of values, such as respect for personal dignity and fundamental personal rights. It builds a culture of hospitality and of reciprocal understanding. It contributes to the awareness and appreciation of different cultures from around the world.
The Church operates in the world of tourism so that ethical values will always be present in this sector. The Church also reminds us that attention is to be given to the priority of human beings in all social phenomena, so that even through tourism their cultural and spiritual aspirations can be reached.
Tourism is also an efficient instrument to combat poverty and it represents an important instrument for social and occupational growth. However, it is a sector that is extremely sensitive. It is vulnerable to wars, terrorism, natural disasters and epidemics. Recent calamities caused an important crisis in the international tourism market.
China is just now leaving behind the SARS (atypical pneumonia) emergency. The diffusion of this illness caused a moment of crisis even for the ever-growing Chinese tourist market, as well as for the international tourism market. On this subject, I would like to mention the Holy See's good will toward the Chinese government and the Chinese people for having overcome the difficult circumstances in which they found themselves (on this occasion).
Nevertheless, the tourist industry is an industry gifted with an enormous capacity for comeback. The flow of tourists decreases from time to time, but sooner or later the desire to travel again returns. The phenomenon of "tourism" prevails, and will always prevail upon, the attention of governmental institutions and the media.
The energy innate in man's mobile nature always finds a way to defeat any limits imposed.
International tourism has seen an authentic boom in the last 10 years, especially toward exotic and far-away places. Benefiting from this are not only those countries less integrated in the world economy but rich ones as well. Tourists appreciate cultural and religious values that nowadays can be found alongside the quest for natural environments and cultures still in a pristine state. China offers all these elements of attraction and fascination.
In this context, tourism gathers the expectations and hopes of those who see in it a great source of energy -- energy able to quicken the pace of economic development in various countries.
The Holy See wishes for this assembly, organized in a country rich in tradition and civilization, to leave traces of a positive period for serene dialogue toward a renewed increase in the development of the values of truth, liberty and justice.
It is in this atmosphere of loyal and reciprocal understanding tourists can enjoy excellence, and professional quality in the services offered, capable of spreading complete liberty of thought, which is the pride of modern civilization.
Thank you for your attention!
[Original text: English]