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Why the ITE Session on Tourism? Growing human rights violations caused by over-tourism

Despite the problems caused by the global crisis, wars and terrorism, tourism has risen to 1,235 billion people in 20162, increasing its pressure on communities, notably in South America, Africa and Asia, without diminishing its hold in Europe and North America. However the tourism industry, in its many forms, is a growing cause of forced evictions because, under the pretext of popularizing exchanges and enjoyment of the world, tourism is turning cities and territories into goods and their inhabitants into extras.

One of the most neglected collateral effects of neoliberal policies are evictions of people from their homes and livelihoods, that are often hidden by international institutions, despite being the source of numerous human rights violations through dispossessions and displacements Many factors are involved such as the financialisation and commodification of land, public-private-partnerships that place an emphasis on profits before people, austerity policies, mega-projects (mines, dams, airports, etc.), the tourism industry (mega- events, “disneysation”, “museification”, gentrification, etc.), war (foreign occupation, building military bases, etc.), post-disaster policies (risk prevention, resilience, etc.), climate change, racial discrimination and/or sexism.

Despite the problems caused by the global crisis, wars and terrorism, tourism has risen to 1,235 billion people in 20162, increasing its pressure on communities, notably in South America, Africa and Asia, without diminishing its hold in Europe and North America. However the tourism industry, in its many forms, is a growing cause of forced evictions because, under the pretext of popularizing exchanges and enjoyment of the world, tourism is turning cities and territories into goods and their inhabitants into extras.

The UN World Tourism Organization has a lot of documentation about this development but nothing about its collateral effects, including the evictions of inhabitants that result from tourism. Nevertheless, estimates show that the tourism industry is, more and more, becoming a cause of evictions and that, in general, women and indigenous poor people, the inhabitants of cities and territories targeted by tourism, are the most affected.

Some striking examples are the displacement of entire communities and the destruction of the environment to build infrastructure to promote mobility (ports, airports, roads), or the eviction of native peoples from forests under the pretext of preserving the environment, or of coastal or at risk villages that are forced into a "resilient" tourism transformation supposedly the better to face natural disasters. And not forgetting the acceleration of the gentrification of cities via their gradual transformation into outdoor museums or amusement parks. Not last, there is the phenomena of tourism rentals in private homes (eg AirBnB) that, under the pretext of reducing the prices of formal hotels and the problems of redeveloping historical centres for new developments, pushes up rental costs for inhabitants and makes their lives more precarious.

This situation is only partially considered by the authorities, who often exploit their territory as a priority to promote tourism, which is seen as an engine of development and income to cure budget deficits, while disregarding human rights caused by the evictions.

Therefore, given the gravity of the phenomenon, the growing demand for a specific intervention identified during the 5th ITE Session and several Zero Evictions Campaigns, we decided to focus the ITE Session on evictions caused by tourism in 2017, since this is the International Year of Sustainable Tourism.

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