Consultation, Conferences & Meetings

Istanbul Statement



August 30, 2014


We have gathered in Istanbul because of our shared recognition of the urgent need to rebuild an international network and forum for courageous dialogue on global tourism impacts. We are gravely concerned about today’s converging global crises, which are manifesting with particular and increasing intensity through tourism, and include both the biosphere crisis and the numerous intensifying social crises that accompany it. These multiple crises profoundly affect humanity, especially today’s children and future generations worldwide, and merit our immediate collective action. We therefore strive for a proactive global tourism advocacy and action platform.

We call attention to the accelerating inequities and injustices characterizing both the global tourism industry and its industrial models for development. This is a historical moment for all actors in the global tourism arena to rethink tourism and recognize that tourism is not a right but a privilege, and increasingly a controversial privilege. Accordingly, we wish to inspire a growing community of care, equipped to engage in advocacy and action for a fundamental shift in tourism policy and practice. From here forward, our endeavour must include naming and confronting the social, economical and political realities, underlying the exploitative relationships characterizing the global tourism industry.

Tourism is a political force which may benefit or harm. Considering the serious and accelerating challenges of tourism such as climate change, destruction of biodiversity, and culture loss - which carry immediate local and global threats for all humanity - we highlight the need to look at the structural underpinnings of these widespread yet often unevenly distributed injustices. We stress the need to support the well-being of vulnerable and oppressed populations affected by tourism, including Indigenous Peoples and other socially marginalized populations, notably women and children.

We also note the need to support those affected by inequities within travel freedoms - such as pastoralists, refugees, and migrant workers. Among these social groups, many are displaced from their ancestral lands, sacred sites, and other places of cultural heritage and dispossessed of basic life necessities (for example, water, shelter, and food). An alarming number of these peoples, communities and individuals are forced by the tourism industry to work in slavery or slave-like conditions. Given these trends, we must dismantle the institutional barriers that prevent the physical and social mobility, continuity in cultural practices, as well as dignified and secure livelihoods which are vital to their well-being. It is our responsibility to work together for harm avoidance.

In recognizing these patterns that must be confronted and changed, we call for the honouring of local peoples whose daily lives are immediately impacted by tourism. Solidarity and concerted action are necessary to lay foundations for ethical pathways for the radical transformation of tourism policy and practice.


Recognizing the profound costs of tourism, it is vital to define the values and principles by which we will shift the dominant discourse on tourism.

Our initiative has a distinct vision, shaped by values arising from the realities, experiences, needs, aspirations, and rights of peoples and people’s struggles in and/or from developing countries, as well as others experiencing oppression and disparity as a result of tourism.

First, we clarify the values of our initiative which will define our organizing. As a group, we are reflecting on our path of advocacy, both what we have accomplished as global networks, as well as the limitations of our work - especially, in working with and serving the local peoples affected by tourism. We affirm our commitment to being the change that we want to see in the world. Within our network, we strive for collaboration - through a mutually supportive, non-competitive ethic - dedicated to transparent and accountable ways of interacting. We emphasize inclusiveness, based on our common values, principles, and visions. That said, we point out that our work is characterized by independence from corporate interests. We seek respectful engagement with those holding differing viewpoints; however, we shall confront the actors which undermine the values of shared humanity, starting within our own networks of tourism NGOs.

We are determined to promote a holistic approach to tourism. This requires a radical review of the mainstream discourse on tourism. Decolonization of the global tourism debate is necessary. This entails striving for equity and justice within all discourses and processes on tourism. Foremost, we want to open new spaces for peoples vulnerable to tourism to articulate their experiences and needs in their own voices, languages, and customary ways. Our priority is to amplify the voices of affected people(s), especially children and women.


We are calling for a comprehensive decolonization of tourism and all tourism related processes, including institutional frameworks and dialogues on policy and practice. We are guided by the principles of self-determination and care for our fellow humanity. Tourism narratives must put disadvantaged peoples and communities, including today’s generation of children, at the centre. It is crucial to discern local forms of tourism which are a political force for good from globalized tourism models that ultimately hurt people(s) and place(s).

We have a shared responsibility to evaluate tourism alternatives across multiple scales, with both an ethic of justice and an ethic of care - understanding the present global challenges through local struggles. Therefore, we emphasize the need to critically reexamine the political and economic structural barriers to genuine sustainable tourism, within both local and global frameworks for governance (for example, in the institutions and processes responsible for policy development).

Our work must assure non-exploitative relationships in tourism. This includes fighting the destructive forces of capitalism, racism, and other forms of discrimination and oppression. This is the basis for our solidarity. It entails caring for both the biosphere that we share and all peoples and living beings residing within it.

We commit to principles for action grounded in social justice, including support for peoples’ and communities’ rights to say no to tourism. We especially note the historic significance of inter-generational rights today, in light of the biosphere crisis, current rates of culture loss, and the erosion of Indigenous knowledge systems globally.

The misguided development models of the global tourism industry must be corrected. One vital component of this is the degrowth of tourism. Further accumulation of tourism debt (that is, social, cultural, and environmental damage) is not an option. Humanity sits at a juncture where we must reject practices that are inherently unsustainable.

We urge a precautionary approach, grounded in wisdom.


Our action is oriented to a profound transformation of the tourism system, to support the emergence of a society which honours justice, equity, diversities, inter-dependence and peace. Central premises for our action include:

  • Advocacy highlighting and supporting local struggles, grounded in proactive action research respecting customary law and cultural protocols;
  • Making people’s voices visible in national and international arenas;
  • Linking people(s) so that they can mobilize together to safeguard their rights;
  • Acting as ‘whistle blowers’ to illuminate violations of the rights of people(s), including rights to a healthy biosphere;
  • Opposing the cooption of the terminology of social justice, human rights and sustainability - particularly by institutions and agencies whose own mandates undermine these core principles;
  • Exposing the UNWTO as an industry-serving body which is inherently unable to develop or oversee a vision of sustainable tourism;
  • Symbolic acts and protests to express our concerns and visions. 

We stand together, for deeply transformative practice across the tourism sector - premised on mutual care.

Anita Pleumarom, tourism investigation & monitoring team, Thailand
Dr. Freya Higgins-Desbiolles, tourism scholar, Australia
International Support Centre for Sustainable Tourism, Canada
Kyle Whyte, faculty, Michigan State University
Navaya ole Ndaskoi, Pastoralists Indigenous Non-Governmental Organisations Forum, Tanzania
Pierrette Nicolosi, Altervoyages, Belgium
Rami Kassis, Alternative Tourism Group, Palestine
Ranjan Solomon, Centre for Responsible Tourism and Badayl, India
Rev. Dr. Kaleo Patterson, Pacific Justice & Reconciliation Center, Hawai’i
Rodrigo Ruiz Rubio, Programa Vichama, Peru
Taisser Maray, Golan for Development of the Arab Villages, Golan Heights

For further information, contact:
EQUATIONS, email: and/or the tourism investigation & monitoring team:

International meeting in Bonn on tourism in Palestine

Palestine requires a wider base of transformational pilgrims
(Statement from a meeting in Bonn, Germany on marketing the Guidelines for Pilgrimage)

Bonn – Germany 21-23/5/2012

Governments around the world have allowed themselves to be rendered impotent due to high-passioned Israeli propaganda and other forms of political pressures. Rather than acting promptly to take stern measures against Israeli violations of international law, relevant UN resolutions and the road map obligations, the international community seems to be held back by an inertia that allows more and more illegality with impunity. The world continues to hear about the serious conditions of Palestinian prisoners including children in Israeli jails and detention centres.

At a time when the situation in the occupied territories is rapidly deteriorating with mounting human rights violations accompanied with even greater brutality, the world is under obligation to ‘Come and See’ Israel’s total disregard for the rule of law and international humanitarian standards and practices. Not merely to ‘come and see’- but to bear witness to the ongoing struggle for sheer survival by Palestinians on the one hand, and the harsh Israeli provocations and measures against Palestinians on the other.

It was in this context that twenty tourism activists from around the world gathered together in Bonn, Germany to consider how they could carry forward the Guidelines for Pilgrimages for Transformation and the Code of Ethics for travellers to The Holy Land to a wider audience with a more insistent and pro-active marketing strategy.

‘Pilgrimages for Transformation’ (PIFT) is an initiative based on the notion that that a pilgrimage to The Holy land must be a pilgrimage that can potentially transform individuals and, through them, the religious, social, and political spheres in ways that will help bring to an end the tragic violence and conflict that defines the Middle East.   The Palestine Initiative for Responsible Tourism (PIRT) created in 2007- an outcome of the PIFT process- developed the Code of Conduct of travellers to The Holy Land – a code that has been accepted by a wide range of stakeholders.

An important aspect of the Bonn meeting was to study how ATG and Kairos can more effectively mobilize churches around the world that bring pilgrims to The Holy Land with a level of preparation that enables them to return to their home countries and sending churches with a craving for justice, and a message of hope. They took into account an important document“Come and See- A call from Palestinian Christians” created by a wider coalition with Kairos Palestine, Ecumenical Coalition on Tourism (ECOT), and Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF).

The Bonn meeting is hopefully another major step forward in advancing the struggle for freedom and liberation for Palestinians using a creative and more participatory learning style- pilgrimages or tourism. It is our conviction that when Christians travel to Palestine, they need to be well informed and prepared to undertake a spiritual. There is the need to come with a clear recognition of an obdurate conflict stemming from the 45-year Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories indeed. Therefore the pilgrim too, should be informed about the real life of his/her brothers and sisters around the holy places.

Consultative Meeting in Geneva (2010)
Consultative Meeting in Geneva (2010)

Consultative meeting will promote justice tourism for pilgrims to Palestine-Israel

While seeing holy sites and ancient structures remains popular for Christian tourists visiting the Holy Land , there is an emerging concern that Christian tourists have an ethical obligation to engage with the people living there, to become witnesses to their struggle for freedom, human dignity, equality, justice and peace.

To promote and bolster this message, theologians, peace advocates and justice tourism activists will gather in Chavannes-de-Bogis ( Geneva ) 18-21 May for a consultative meeting aimed at consolidating a “theology of pilgrimage for Palestine-Israel”.  

The meeting is being organized by the Alternative Tourism Group (ATG) in cooperation with the the Ecumenical Coalition on Tourism (ECOT), Kairos Palestine and the Palestine-Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF) which is an initiative of the World Council of Churches (WCC). The ATG is a Palestinian NGO specializing in tours and pilgrimages that incorporate critical examinations of the Holy Land ’s history, culture and politics.

The consultation will produce a study guide for Christian tourists in Palestine-Israel, encouraging them to “come-see-witness” the realities of Palestine-Israel today.

Rami Kassis, ATG Director, says, “Justice tourism in Palestine can make a fundamental contribution towards the development of peace in the Middle East and beyond. Tourists with a commitment to social justice – justice tourists – have the opportunity, not only to make positive contributions to the communities they visit, but to become holders of the knowledge that will one day lead to equality, democracy and human rights for all.”

A “Code of Conduct” published by the Palestine Initiative for Responsible Tourism offers guidance to Holy Land pilgrims on trip preparation and cultural considerations, as well as suggestions for sharing their experience when they return home. It advises them to “choose an inclusive and balanced itinerary that allows [them] to visit and stay in different places”, and to “establish contact with Palestinians to get up-to-date information about the current situation, safety, local history, culture and customs.”

“Palestinian suffering demands that the world act for justice without delay, making every effort in every related sphere,” said Kassis. “In light of tourism’s potential to open minds, this consultative meeting in Geneva is a contribution to the global struggle to achieve a just peace for Palestine and Israel.”

For more information about the consultation meeting, please contact us at

Palestinian International Advocacy Conference (2009)

United in Struggle against Israeli Colonialism, Occupation, and Racism
The Occupied Palestine and Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative (OPGAI)
The Palestinian International Advocacy Conference 2009

The Conference is taking place on the 26th and 27th of October 2009 in Bethlehem – Palestine, and gathers Palestinian and international activists, researchers, and people interested in advocacy issues toward ending the Israeli occupation and achieving justice. It aims to review, develop, and document the Palestinian advocacy mechanism locally and internationally, and to determine the impact of such efforts so far, in addition to raising the level of cooperation and coordination among the various related actions and activities.

Day One:
SESSION I: Advocacy concepts and experience
Facilitator: Rifat Kassis, DCI Director

  • Slomosze Mapusa – South African activist
  • Christopher Fergusson - Representative to The UN, Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, World Council of Churches

SESSION II: Advocacy work spaces
Facilitator: Michael Warschawski, AIC

  • Naser Alquddwa - PLC
  • Lilia Solano, Human Rights defender, Director of the Justice and Life Project and Professor of Social and Political Sciences at the National University in Bogota, Colombia

SESSION III: Palestinian civil society advocacy strategies
Facilitator: Mohammad Zidan, director of Arab Human Rights Organization, Nazareth

  • Shawan Jabbarin - Al Haq,
  • Jamal Juma’ – Stop the Wall
  • Ameer Makhol– Ittijah

Day Two
SESSION I: Palestinian advocacy challenges and international experiences
Facilitator: Mazin Qumsiyeh, Human Rights Activist, Prof at Bethlehem and Bir Zeit Universities

  • Huwwaida Arraf –International Solidarity Movement
  • Clarissa Balan - Executive Secretary Advocacy and Programs, World Alliance of YMCAs
  • Mike Zagt - ICCO

SESSION II: The expected role of the various Palestinian bodies and entities
Facilitator: Suleiman Fakhredinn, Marsad, Golan Heights

  • Abdallah Abdallah –Fatah Party
  • Bassam Salehi –People Party
  • Khaleda Jarrar –PFLP
  • Mustafa Barghouthi – Moubadara
  • Qais Abdul Karim 'Abu Leila' - Democratic Front 
Madaba Meeting (2007)

Working Seminar on Pilgrimages for Transformation in Madaba
Madaba, Jordan, November 14-18, 2007

ATG organized a three days event on the further development of the Pilgrimages for Transformation project in Madaba, Jordan. Twenty-two international and eleven Palestinian participants gathered to exchange ideas on how to impact tourism development towards achieving tourism that is more beneficial for the local community and how to encourage responsible behaviour and choices of tourists. The participants contributed to the fruitful exchange on various topics with their inputs and presentations on tourism and justice issues. The working seminar resulted in the elaboration of a framework for the drafting of a code of ethics for tourists travelling to the Holy Land.

Seminar on Interfaith Cooperation (2005)

Seminar on Interfaith Cooperation 2005
Golan for Development
Ecumenical Coalition on Tourism

Dear friends,

The Alternative Tourism Group (ATG), with Golan for Development (GD) and the Ecumenical Coalition on Tourism (ECOT) invite you/your organization/network to a Study Workshop on Interfaith Co-operation for Justice in the Occupied Territories - Human encounters for peace and reconciliation through tourism, to take place October 21 – 24, 2005. The workshop will take place in Alexandria, Egypt..

Arrivals and departures

Participants are expected to arrive on the 21st October, 2005 and plan for departures on the 25th October, 2005. We are arranging for interested participants to stay back for one extra day in Cairo (25th October) to be able to see some of the important sites in Cairo. Those wishing to stay for this additional day are requested to advice us in advance.

About the workshop

Tourism in Palestine has been an Israeli monopoly since the establishment of the State of Israel in Palestine, resulting in almost total isolation of the Palestinian people from tourists, a separation carefully orchestrated by Israel to project a negative image of Palestinians in general in order to justify the occupation and colonization of Palestine. In this way, Israeli tourism in the Occupied Territories has served as one more means of ignoring the basic rights of the Palestinian people, especially to maintain their cultural heritage and to be freely employed and mobile in seeking that employment.

Justice Tourism’ is relatively new in the tourism discourse. It seeks to promote the notion of justice based on concrete, viable ideals; ethical in formulation and spiritual in orientation, it places human dignity at the pinnacle of the tourism equation. Through it, tourism can facilitate ideals such as people encountering people as equals, cultures and religions in dialogue, rediscovering and learning history, celebrating discovery of the unknown, and sharing the fruits of progress between and among peoples. Thus, Justice Tourism can be a key instrument in developing a positive image of Palestine internationally and an essential element in preserving and enhancing national and local pride and spirit, whilst contributing to the health of its cultural institutions and heritage.

In the final analysis, this is about creating a platform in which the right to travel is affirmed – notwithstanding frequent Israeli blocks and obstacles to this elementary human right, and the right to information on a first-hand basis.

The study-workshop is planned with the following purposes:

  1. To promote the notion that tourism can be a vehicle for the international community to become advocates of peace with justice in The Occupied Territories, with the goal of ending occupation.

  2. To understand how inter-religious co-operation can be forged in the promotion of justice tourism initiatives.

  3. To create solidarity groups who are able to be advocate for justices in their own countries through public education/awareness and lobbying of their governments on the Palestinian Question.

  4. To develop campaigns designed to awaken political consciousness among people and, through it, to engage in efforts such as boycott of Israeli products, disinvestment campaigns, olive tree planting, people-to-people exchanges of a specialised nature, and other relevant means.

Who will attend?

The participants are from three categories (1) Palestinian and their peace and human rights organisations, (2) their international partners and (3) decision-makers and shapers of public opinion who understand the need for a win-win approach to the Middle East conflict. Each plays a key role in influencing public opinion and government policy.


  • A political analyst will present the challenges in light of the new circumstances- within Palestine, the regional situation, the stark realities juxtaposed with the media-spin oriented theory that peace is around the corner whilst the reality is that a settlement is far from imminent. This becomes even more pronounced in the context of the Gaza withdrawal- a move which is seen as a political ploy and diversionary tactic from the real issues.

  • Political thinkers and players from within Palestine (from within civil society processes as well as from the political spectrum.

  • An input from a tourism activist/expert on the politics and economics of tourism-‘Democratized Tourism’-Community based/people-centered tourism.

  • An analysis on the relationship between terrorism and tourism- causes and effects also from a tourism expert.

  • Stories from South Africa, Iraq, South Korea, and Japan would be possibly shared to establish broader South-South linkages.

It is therefore anticipated that this Study Workshop will be an event promoting human encounters for peace and reconciliation through tourism, with international resonance and impact and significantly contributing to peace in the Middle East region.

Expected outcomes

  • a. To develop global campaigns designed to bring political consciousness within the global community and, through it, to engage in efforts such as boycott of Israeli products, disinvestments campaigns, Olive tree planting etc.

  • To promote international human encounters between ‘occupied peoples’ and others in a position, and willing, to engage in actions that will accelerate the levels of solidarity and the pursuit of freedom through ‘justice tourism’.

  • To promote religion as a vehicle of peace in the Middle East through developing methods of dialogue between people of different religious traditions across the world.

  • To arrive at a strategy to ‘market and inform’ and for presenting occupied lands as a space and issue for justice/solidarity tourism

  • To encourage churches, NGOs, and civil society to promote notions of freedom with particular reference to occupation and encourage visitations-study tours-dialogues-fact finding missions.

Why Palestine as starting point?

Palestine is undeniably at the centre of the many sided political battles being played out in the Middle East. The occupation of the Golan Heights has its roots in the struggle for Palestinian selfhood. Golan for Development believes that new patterns of tourism to the areas must be encouraged so as to expose what happens under Israeli Occupation. The occupation of the South of Lebanon has left scars in the minds of people and a nation devastated. Justice tourism in the case of Lebanon would seek to recover the collective consciousness of the Lebanese populations and educate the international community about the dimensions of war in the Middle East. Political analysts argue- and with good evidence- that the Iraq war of 1990 and the subsequent decade-plus of constant bombings, the life-threatening sanctions, and the war of 2003 that ended in the occupation of Iraq, also has roots in the Arab-Israeli conflict. 9/11, the recent spate of bombings in Spain, London, and threats elsewhere will not cease until the fundamental question of global justice is resolved in a lasting and just manner. The Palestinian Question is probably at the core of yet many unresolved issues.

The challenge of our meeting in Egypt is to bring to the tourism agenda alternative paradigms that have as their base values justice, development, respect for cultures and ecological sensitivity. Perhaps, we will need to define tourism more as form of pilgrimage, which is a theatre of opportunity for solidarity, sharing and caring. Indeed tourism as a means of solidarity can be the path to global justice and understanding.

Rami Kassis
Executive Director
Alternative Tourism Group - Study Center
Beit Sahour, Palestine 
Tel: +972 2 277 215
Mob: +972 522 435678

Ranjan Solomon
Executive Director
Ecumenical Coalition on Tourism
Tel: + 852- 2602-3669
Mob: + 852- 65778750

Taiseer Maray
Executive Director
Golan for Development
Tel: + 972-4-6982672

Response to the "Tablet"


The Editor
The Tablet
PO Box 326
Kent ME9 8FA
United Kingdom

The Editor
The Church Times
3rd Floor, Invicta House,
108-114 Golden Lane,
London EC1Y 0TG
United Kingdom


07 July 2012
Dear Editors,

We write this letter of protest on behalf of the Alternative Tourism Group (ATG) and Kairos Palestine. 

We were puzzled to read advertisements in your esteemed newspapers issued by the Israel Government Tourist Office which exclude Palestine from Holy Land pilgrim tours. The advertisement is intentionally erroneous. The acceptance of such a disgraceful negation of holy places as the core of Palestinian existence which the advertisement seeks to imply by both your newspapers is cause for grave concern. The advertisement is yet another tool of the occupation authorities to delegitimize Palestine and Palestinians. It is also a blatant economic manoeuvre to wrest important Palestinian tourism products and monopolize touristic economic gains. It implicitly states that Israel owns and controls all those territories mentioned in the advertisement.

We fail to comprehend how a pilgrimage to the Holy Land can actually exclude Bethlehem, Hebron or Jericho. Yet, how can it include illegally annexed East Jerusalem feature, including the controversial 'King David's City' controlled by the Elad settlers, as well as Galilee, Tel Aviv and holiday resort Eilat?.

We are at a loss to know whether the acceptance of the advertisement was a decision made in sheer naivety or on the basis of commercial opportunism. This is a time when many churches around the world are campaigning intensively to achieve Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS) of the Israeli government as a non-violent instrument to bring to an end the unjust occupation. The advertisement in both your newspapers conveys the impression that there is confusion in the ranks of those who are engaged in collective advocacy on a variety of fronts.

In 2010, ATG and Kairos Palestine along with the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF) issued a call from Palestinian Christian to their Christian sisters and brothers around the world to “Come & See” and join ‘A Journey for Peace with Justice’. That call provided ‘Guidelines for Christians Contemplating a Pilgrimage to the Holy Land’. The message of the call was essentially an invitation to “a journey of truth and transformation that will reveal the love of God to you through the eyes of the Palestinian people who, despite having suffered decades of occupation and dispossession-- maintain their dignity, faith, and capacity for hope.”

We totally endorse the stand taken by the Interfaith Group for Morally Responsible Investment (IMRI) and join their demand for assurances that this advertisement will not be considered for inclusion in any future editions of The Church Times or The Tablet.

We also call on you to rectify the insensitive error that has caused anguish to the Palestinian people and suggest that your newspapers include a comprehensive article based on “Come & See” as a way of setting the record straights. 

Even though we write in pain and with hurt sentiments, we hope that your newspapers, which are well reputed and are able to reach minds and hearts, will remedy the mistake by a proper representation of facts.

Yours sincerely,

Rifat Kassis
General Coordinator
Kairos Palestine

Rami Kassis
Executive Director
Alternative Tourism Group

Madaba Letter to Churches 2017