World travellers, and those who support them in the world of luxury hotels, have a responsibility to make a difference. In 2003, the World Tourism Organization estimated that there were 694 million international travellers, across national borders and between cultures. This represents a wealth of opportunities to make a difference, especially if we consider every interaction as an opportunity to connect, communicate and celebrate our cultural differences.
I am German, married to an Australian. We live in the USA and our daughter goes to a French school and plays with an American doll. I have three older children of Filipino-German descent, who live in Hong Kong, San Francisco and Washington DC: I have four grandchildren of French, Hungarian and Spanish heritage. It doesn’t get much more multi-cultural than that!
I am very fortunate, which is why I find it so difficult to explain to my youngest daughter why so much hatred exists outside the safety of our home and the walls of the store where she buys the outfits for her American doll. But, like it or not, we are caught up in the world’s problems. Not only do we have a moral obligation to respond to global problems, but our very survival depends upon it.
So what can we do?
In the Universal Declaration of Cultural Diversity, Koïchiro Matsuura, Secretary-General of UNESCO, says that “intercultural dialogue is the best guarantee of peace”. He goes on to reject the theory of the inevitable clash of cultures and civilizations. In his eyes, “cultural diversity is as necessary for human kind as biodiversity is for nature.”
If we acknowledge this to be true, then one of the most effective ways of teaching respect for diversity is to eliminate ignorance and to celebrate our own cultures. We should use each and every one of our experiences as an opportunity to recognise and respect the opinions, practices and behaviors of others. We should encourage everyone to become ambassadors for tolerance, compassion and understanding.
Gandhi said that “no culture can live, if it attempts to be exclusive”. And I believe this to be true of every group of people at every level in this world.
I invite all of us who stay in beautiful hotels and resorts around the world - plus those who make them happen - to walk the talk. We all need to do our utmost to be more inclusive – to stimulate communication between cultures, not only within our immediate community, but also with the larger organisations with whom we may interact in our everyday lives, and when we are travelling.
In our own small but significant circles, we can contribute towards world peace. We can encourage a better cultural understanding - that allows for the dialogue that builds the bridges, that cross our cultural divides.
Bernd Chorengel is President of Hyatt International Corporation, and is responsible for a portfolio of over 120 hotels in 46 countries.Born and educated in Germany, he was recruited from Hilton International to join Hyatt during its expansion into Asia in 1969. Find more at http://www.kiwicollection.com