Tourism for Peace

I recently quoted Matt Damon on the need for Thicker Passports.  At the end of his statement, he says that "there is no substitute for actually going and seeing things." And in a recent interview with Conde Nast Traveler, Tony Blair echoed very similar sentiments when speaking about the Middle East and his campaign to bring peace to the region. In his opinion, the path to peace won't be "built just by people sitting in a room negotiating." But instead:

"It’s built by what happens on the ground. If we could develop tourism in the way that it should be developed in the Holy Land, where Israelis and Palestinians were working together to exploit the common potential, that would be a major bonus for peace... We need a joint plan for tourism so the Israelis and the Palestinians can come together to develop sites and market them properly. Second, we need changes in policy. We need to let visitors and tourist guides—both Israeli and Palestinian—move around freely."

And then he said something that really fits into some of the bigger ideas of combining entrepreneurship and social change that I love speaking about, the ideas of the Philanthropreneur. He said:

"If people start to get a stake in the future, they will have a self–interest in peace, which is why the growth of the Palestinian economy is so important. Palestinian people on the West Bank are thinking that if they start getting somewhere, then they’ll become more prosperous, be better able to raise a family, do the things they want to do."

When people believe that their actions influence change in their lives and the lives of people that they care about, they will act more boldly.  But, when they believe that their actions will undermined by forces greater than themselves, such as governments or corrupt religious officials, the majority will play the role of victim, not hero.  With a vested interest in their community and an idea bigger than themselves, the barriers of ignorance and racial tensions will, eventually, be overshadowed by mutual success and the realized promise of a better life for all.