War hurts international travel, tourism, and meetings — as we've learned yet again all too recently. Yet these are the activities that have a tremendous potential to promote peace. That's the belief of the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism, says founder and president Louis D'Amore. “IIPT was born in Montréal in 1986 when I became interested in how to tap the world's largest industry — tourism — to make a better future,” he says.

The mission of IIPT's first global conference, held in 1988 in Vancouver, B.C., was to build awareness, but at the second conference in 1994 in Montréal, the group was able to point to success stories. “We presented 200 case studies on how tourism could promote international understanding and cooperation, improve the environment, and contribute to systematic development in underdeveloped countries,” D'Amore explains. “By our third global conference, in Glasgow in 1999, we had success stories, and we had started a network of chapters and an organizational framework.”

The next evolutionary step was to shift to a by-invitation-only summit, in an effort to attract more senior-level people. The first Global Summit on Peace through Tourism was held in Amman, Jordan, in November 2000, with Jordan's King Abdullah II as Royal Patron and American Express as the title sponsor. That summit resulted in the Amman Declaration, ratified by more than 60 participants, including 23 CEOs of major travel companies, 16 national Ministers of Tourism, and more than 25 heads of international travel and tourism associations. The declaration has since become an official United Nations document.

This past February the second global summit was held in partnership with the World Travel and Tourism Council. An impressive array of government officials, hospitality industry CEOs, and international organizers met in Geneva to discuss practical steps for using tourism to promote peace.

D'Amore is currently IIPT's only full-time paid employee, but staff have been added to help prepare for conferences. “For the second global conference, we had about 14 people in the final four to six months,” he says. Planning roundtable sessions for the second summit were hosted by Universitas (a program of the International Labor Organization) and by the World Bank. For the nuts-and-bolts of staging the summit, IIPT tapped Conventus of Switzerland. Among the most important contributors to the summit's success, he says, are the World Travel & Tourism Council and the Bradford Group, which provides IIPT's public relations.

IIPT (www.iipt.org) relies heavily on pro bono services. Reed Travel Exhibitions, for example, “provides us with promotional opportunities at major travel shows,” says D'Amore, “and eTurbo News publishes our monthly newsletter to 160,000 subscribers.” The board of directors and the advisory boards are all volunteers, as are the chapter and networking coordinators. All are committed, says D'Amore, “to IIPT's vision of travel and tourism as the world's first global peace industry, and to the potential that every traveler can be an Ambassador for Peace.”