Much has been said on the tragedy and complications of war, more than can be expounded upon here. But considering the complexity of international conflict, it is not hard to understand that the transition from war to peace is far from a simple, fast process. War leaves a lasting impact on the countries and people involved, not only in terms of physical damage, but also psychological and social damage that in some ways can be much more difficult to heal. Undoubtedly, one of the questions that emerges after a conflict ends is how can two countries with recent conflict surmount persisting cultural ambiguity and negatives stereotypes? In the Journal of Travel Research article, “The Nutella Project: An Education Initiative to Suggest Tourism as a Means to Peace between the United States and Afghanistan,” authors Angela Durko and James Petrick of Texas A&M University consider tourism as a tool to promote peace and combat the lasting negative social impact of war.
How different the world would be had countries not reopened their borders to
welcome tourists after conflict, thus providing opportunities for travelers to learn, understand, and overcome potential stereotypes and negative perceptions of a country’s residents and environment. This study reveals preliminary results of an education initiative focused on understanding, addressing, and overcoming negative perceptions, with the possibility of creating interest in, and opportunities for, a revitalization of tourism in Afghanistan. The study offers contact theory as a way to present organic images of a place to help create perceptions of destinations that are more accurate than induced images. Results revealed that contact theory, through intergroup dialogue between residents of two countries with noted historic conflict, provided the means for reducing cultural ambiguity and overcoming stereotypes. The findings offer implications for both the tourism and education sectors and suggest that intergroup dialogue may be key to increasing visit intentions and, most importantly, enhancing a destination’s image after conflict.
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