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Encounters not contacts: Sustainable travel can link people

A world map in different shades of green

Tour guides as bridge builders: This is how international understanding can succeed

All the participants in the Studiosus discussion at ITB Berlin 2024 agreed: travel connects sustainably - provided certain conditions are met. “It is hard to measure the social value of travel, but it is, however, an indispensable factor“, as the general manager of Studiosus, Peter-Mario Kubsch, stated. With reference to current conflicts around the world, he added: “On a small scale international understanding can achieve so much, perhaps even more than at higher levels.”

Peter-Mario Kubsch, general manager of Studiosus: “The choice of discussion partner at the location is an important instrument for ensuring good encounters. Travel guides must be well prepared for this and keep in mind the guests‘ expectations. We know our guests very well and use courses to pass on this knowledge to our travel guides, who are actually more accurately described as facilitators and bridge builders. They have to have an awareness of spontaneous opportunities which may make a more lasting impression on travellers than award-winning museums.”

Dr. Gökhan Tuncer, Heinrich-Böll Foundation: “Travel guides at the venue must also have certain knowledge about guests and their home countries. Even if a folklore performance does not lead to a lasting encounter, it may still give rise to something, when, for example, a dancer cooks a meal for the group afterwards. Travel guides must undergo regular training and find the right balance: allow curiosity but not providing so much that is new and causes shocks. Organisers have a responsibility to integrate this professional group more in the product.”

Best-selling author Stephan Orth, Germany’s best-known couch surfer: “I ensure that I am well informed in advance about my hosts and the host country. Even so, unexpected situations can still arise, for example if the opposite number is not so well prepared. However, correcting one’s own images and prejudices, or dispensing with them altogether, is all part of travelling. This applies to me, but I have also experienced it with many people at the location.”

Neuroscientist Prof. Dr. Surjo R. Soekadar, Charité University Hospital Berlin: “The brainwaves of two people who meet become synchronised and in new surroundings nerve cells form new connections. In such situations it is important to have an anxiety-free setting, otherwise the opposite can occur. Fully unplanned situations can leave traces in the brain and create self-confidence. However, everything has to remain in a certain setting: if too many new impressions threaten a loss of control, this can even cause psychoses or trauma. By way of contrast, too little is boring and leaves no traces at all.”