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UN World Tourism Day

Chances are that you’re not even aware of it, even if you’re on holiday right now – but today is the 31st annual World Tourism Day.

First instituted on 27 September 1980, World Tourism Day was upgraded to one of the United Nations’ “official days” in 2003 after the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) was given the status of a UN specialised agency.

This year, World Tourism Day explores the theme of “Tourism – Linking Cultures” and seeks to celebrate the role of cheap holidays and travel in introducing people to each other’s cultures and “promoting global understanding.”

“There is no better way to learn about a new culture than to experience it first-hand,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.

“Tourism offers a wonderful connecting thread between visitor and host community. It promotes dialogue and interaction. Such contact between people of different backgrounds is the very foundation for tolerance. In a world struggling for peaceful coexistence, tourism can build bridges and contribute to peace.”

If you were unaware of the day itself, that might have been because you’re not in the southern Egyptian city of Aswan, which UNWTO has chosen as the venue for its official World Tourism Day celebrations, such as a High Level Think Tank which includes Egypt’s Tourism Minister Mounir Fakhi Abdel-Nour, UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai, Greek Minister for Culture and Tourism Pavlos Yeroulanos and TUI chief executive Michael Frenzel.

The UNWTO has also held a competition asking for people’s holiday photographs and tweets reflecting the “Linking Cultures” theme, and has selected five of each. The photos have gone on display in Aswan and the tweets will be placed on official promotional items. Among the winning pics were a spectacular shot of Korean women celebrating India’s Holi festival and a young tourist backstage at the Chinese Opera Theatre.