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If you spin the globe near the Equator, you might end up here. Photo from andBeyond Vamizi.

If you spin the globe near the Equator, you might end up here. Photo from andBeyond Vamizi.

I’m not very good at remembering all the special commemorative days and sometimes obscure holidays that I should.

For example, I  forgot National Grandparents Day this year, even though I had written about it last year — and, even worse, it was my first Grandparents Day as an actual grandparent. It was only when a relative wished me a Happy Grandparents Day that the light went on in my head.

The United Nations first declared World Tourism Day in 1980 to highlight the social, economic, cultural and political benefits of tourism, which now accounts for about 10 percent of the global economy — the largest single industry in the world.

Airlines, cruise lines, rail lines, bus lines, rental car agencies…hotels, motels, B&Bs, resorts, inns…restaurants, cafes, street vendors…tour companies, guides, travel agents, guidebook publishers and booksellers…travel clothing and luggage manufacturers, and all those they employ — are just a portion of people around the world who depend on tourism for a living.

Some countries rely almost entirely on tourism to exist  tiny San Marino, surrounded by Italy, comes to mind, along with a number of small Caribbean and other island nations.

Baby Boomer Roots

Appropriately for baby boomers, who were the first mass global tourists back in the 1960’s and 70’s, the roots of World Tourism Day reach back to 1946 — the year the cutting-edge boomers were born.

The author in Antarctica, having spun the globe at an angle. Photo by Catharine Norton.

The author in Antarctica, having spun the globe at an angle. Photo by Catharine Norton.

That year, the  First International Congress of National Tourism Bodies voted to replace the unfortunately named International Union of Official Tourist Propaganda Organizations, which had been formed in 1934.”Tourist Propaganda” may have gone over in the 1930’s, but today, not so much.

Eventually — to skip all the boring bureaucratic back and forth — this worldwide initiative led to the UN establishing World Tourism Day.

This year’s theme, launched  September 27 in Bangkok, Thailand, is “Tourism for All,” which promotes accessibility in the global travel and tourism industry.

About one billion people have a serious disability that can severely limit travel, whether it’s a lack of mobility, hearing, sight, or cognition.

Without things like wheelchair ramps and accessible restrooms, there’s no equality in the tourism business. The world has a long way to go on this one, but official recognition of the problem is a big first step.

How to Celebrate World Tourism Day

  • Resolve to visit someplace you’ve never been, foreign or domestic.
  • Book a flight, ship, train, bus, or hop in your car and go to that place. Have a good time, or at least enjoy an intriguing and/or learning experience.
  • If you need a passport or visa, get one before you leave.
  • Don’t forget to pack.
  • If you absolutely can’t decide where to go, spin a globe (if you have one), lightly touch it with your finger, and go wherever your finger is pointing when the globe stops.  (Hint: if you like warm weather, keep your finger somewhere around the middle of the globe.)
  • Be a good traveler — as the saying goes, “leave only footprints, take only pictures.” I would add: don’t wear matching track suits with your spouse or sport “I’m With Stupid” T-shirts, and be respectful of local customs.
  • Help make “tourist” as honored a word as “traveler.”
  • Patronize tour companies, lodgings, etc., that practice sustainable and eco-conscious travel.
  • In  keeping with this year’s theme, offer to lend a hand to someone who can use the assistance. It will be appreciated — and even if it’s not, you will have done the right thing.
  • Don’t forget your toothbrush!

 

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According to government and private surveys:

  • Leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and seniors account for four out of every five dollars spent on luxury travel today.
  • Roughly half the consumer spending money in the U.S.--more than $2 trillion--is in the hands of leading-edge baby boomers and seniors.
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) travel more than any other age group.
  • When asked what they would most like to spend their money on, baby boomers answered “travel” more than any other category, including improving their health or finances.

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