If we believed all the reports we read about the Old Country and its present austerity, we would not think that visitors would be welcome over there. The facts, however, are entirely different than that belief and we will learn today, no doubt, that tourists are being welcomed with the same degree of hospitality as in pre-war years.
Our Guest of Honour today is Director General of the British Travel Association and the new British Tourist and Holiday Board. Our guest was born and educated in Glasgow, entering the shipping business at an early age and served these interests in British Malaya and the East Indies. After returning from Malaya, our guest carried out lecture tours for the Overseas League and the English Speaking Union in Canada and the United States, acting as General Secretary of the Overseas League in Canada, during the period from 1936 until 1938 and later was General Tourist Manager for the Donaldson Atlantic and Cunard interests.
Commissioned in the Royal Air Force soon after the outbreak of war, our guest became Personnel and Embarkation Officer for the Port of Liverpool where he came to know thousands of Canadians in the R.C.A.F. For his outstanding war work he was awarded the M.B.E. (Military Division). On demobilization in 1945 our guest assumed his present duties, which involve world wide travel, expounding the gospel of tourism in Great Britain.
Our guest is a Fellow of The Royal Geographical Society and The Canadian Geographical Society and is also a member of The Institute of Journalists and The London Press Club. He is a Life Member and Central Councillor of The Overseas League and a member of The English Speaking Union.
I have a great deal of pleasure in introducing to you MR. JOHN GOURLAY BRIDGES, M.B.E., F.R.G.S., who will now address us on the subject
"THE INVESTMENT OF FRIENDSHIP"
Mr. Chairman, Members of The Empire Club of Canada: I little thought when I spoke here from this platform in 1938 that what I then said would be so amply and fully borne out in the actual events that followed. I remember stating on this very platform that the hope of civilization depended very largely upon a united British Commonwealth, allied to a strong English-speaking understanding and co-operation.
In 1939 that statement was more than borne out because then the acid test of total war brought the various units of that Commonwealth up against the decision to come in with the United Kingdom and fight for something which all of us believe to be worth more than life itself. Those of you in Canada here who remember that meeting will also remember that at the time there were various schools of thought, some of which felt that we were being over-pessimistic as to the forces that were arrayed against the idealism of a free democracy.
Well, in 1947 I find myself back again in Toronto, speaking on the same platform to an audience which I am sure believes even more fully today in what I then said than it did even in 1938. Surely, my Friends, the events that have taken place during those intervening years have convinced the most skeptical that a United Commonwealth, united in its determination to fight and to stand together for freedom is essential to a real and lasting peace. Canada has by its practical example and sacrifices given to us in the United Kingdom a feeling of strength and confidence which, believe me, is a very large contribution toward a national morale, and as in the days of war when the dark clouds of destruction seemed to be closing in on those little islands, so in the days when the economic blizzard threatens us from all quarters, we feel strengthened and encouraged by the knowledge that with us, behind us and alongside us at all times we have the British Commonwealth of Nations.
I am a great believer in that Commonwealth and therefore I can stand here on this platform today and reaffirm the beliefs which to me have all my life meant more than I can tell you. I am proud to think of the way in which Canada has backed up not only the war effort, but in the postwar years has shown by her example and her practical sympathy and understanding that she is one hundred per cent. behind us in this battle for Freedom.
In the days of the war the forces arrayed against us were tremendous. At one time they were seemingly overwhelming. In the days of so-called peace the forces arrayed against us are equally powerful and more dangerous because they are not always appreciated and
understood. Today the fight that is going on all over the world is a fight against the ideals and the Christian principles for which the British Commonwealth stands and I have no hesitation in saying today that those principles are bound to win.
There is a lot of loose talk about the pessimistic and hopeless outlook today. There is a great deal of depression created by a lack of confidence and courage and much of that depression can be attributed to a lack of belief in the ideals which made us what we are today and which made Canada the nation it is today in the Council of Nations. I say without any hesitation that unless those ideals remain and unless those ideals are uppermost in the minds of every Canadian and every subject of the United Kingdom then nothing but chaos and constant trouble can be our lot.
You know as well as I do the part that was played by your men alongside our own in the years .of the war. It was my privilege to be very closely associated with the Royal Canadian Air Force, many of whom became my close friends and many of whom today in this country still communicate with me. In those clays we had a feeling that we were united together by a bond that was stronger than any materialistic bond. We were united by a feeling that we belonged to each other, that we were a family, and that in time of trouble, members of the family rallied and helped the others.
That was in the days of the war. Now, in time of peace; we find that after six years of total war in which the nations of Europe and the world concentrated their entire efforts, their economies and their power on the total destruction of each other, we find that we are faced with making up in the shortest possible time the destruction and the havoc of six hard years, and let me say now that we in the United Kingdom are determined to tackle that problem and deal with it as we tackled and dealt with the problem of the war.
My visit to the American Continent at this time has a three-fold purpose. It is first of all to say to our friends on this Continent that Great Britain is today not dying or a spent force or dead, but is vital, living, and determined to lead civilization as she has in the past. That I say to you in all sincerity and with every possible emphasis.
I say also that in the United Kingdom today the men and the women who comprise that nation are working and working hard to re-establish prosperity. I don't want you to believe that the people in the United Kingdom are slacking. It is completely untrue. And I ought to know because it is my task and my job to get around the country and see for myself what is happening in the factories and the workshops of the United Kingdom.
And my third mission is to say to the people of the American Continent, come over and see us for yourselves, and then come back, having met us, knowing us, and seeing our problems at first hand, come back again, we hope, convinced ambassadors of good will.
Which brings me to the subject that your Committee has put against my name today: "Investment in Friendship". My friends, there is no investment in the world which pays such a rich dividend and which is so pregnant with possibility for lasting peace as this investment in friendship, and I think today that every unit of the British Commonwealth must look around and see how they can best invest in friendship,-how they can best assist each other.
Do not misunderstand me when I say that as in the case of individuals, so in the case of nations, men do not live to themselves alone. There is no country in the world that can sit down and say, "My storehouses and my barns are full, I will take mine ease", because the welfare and the prosperity today in a changing world is the welfare and prosperity and happiness of all and not of one.
What happens in Europe is of supreme importance to the people on this Continent, and to the people in the southern Continent, and what happens here in this Continent is of supreme importance to us in Europe.
I speak in that matter from experience as Honorary Secretary of the International Union of National Tourist Organizations, and there at the conference table the forty three nations assemble and discuss the problems which concern me here, principally. We find that in the heart of hearts of each of the delegates there is a knowledge and a certain understanding of the fact that each one of us is linked inevitably with the other, and that is why I was proud that the London Conference--again, Great Britain was responsible for the convening of that Conference--met and discussed all the various problems affecting the free movement of the peoples of the world, and, My Friends, the unanimous decisions taken there have had amazing repercussions in all parts of the world.
I mention forty-three nations, and those of you who have any experience in dealing with international conferences will know how difficult it is to get unanimity where forty-three nations are concerned. In every human heart there is at bottom a great deal of good and in any endeavour to arrive at unanimity on important matters the thing that must be killed is selfishness, greed, and a desire to attain control to the disadvantage of others. These forces are always in evidence and we may make up our minds to the fact that in every sphere of life they will continue to be in evidence, but they must be fought and they must be fought in the spirit which the Empire Club of Canada exists to fight for a United Commonwealth of Nations.
I mentioned that we were unanimous and that the repercussions had been significant. Among those repercussions you may count the abolition of visas between many countries, the removal of frontier controls and barriers, the decision to standardize international tourist statistics and the decision to make as far as we possibly can the free flow of peoples between the countries a rising and ever increasing tide. Unfortunately, at the moment temporary difficulties of currency control and exchange have interfered. They have not in any way nullified the effectiveness or the significance of the decisions taken at the London Conference, and subsequently ratified in Paris only this year, but I will say this, that the finest investment in Paris that any nation can undertake is the investment represented by tourists, the free movement of peoples from and to the shores of that nation. By meeting people face to face, by talking to them, understanding their problems, seeing something of the psychology, their ideologies and their national customs, the mind becomes attuned and becomes receptive of the idea, the idea which I firmly believe in of the brotherhood of man. And sooner or later whether we shall see it or not, the world must get together, must work together and must agree to help and forward the welfare of each of its constituent units.
In any family there are bound to be differences of opinion and there are bound to be differences of ideas, but as in the case of families, those differences of opinion and ideas can be ironed out, so in the case of nations I see nothing to prevent those differences being ironed out around the conference table.
I am a firm believer in the United Nations and all that it stands for. I am a firm believer in the British Commonwealth of Nations and its power for good which has in the past, in spite of what anybody may say, been proven. .
We, who are interested in the movement of the free peoples of the world, are convinced that that is one way in which we can help and in which we can pay rich dividends in good will.
I know that the tourist industry has an economic side. I am interested in that economic side, and I could spend a very long time giving you facts and figures which would convince you that of all our industries in the United Kingdom the tourist industry, a great invisible export, ranks right at the top.
Today on this platform, my aim and object is not so much to draw attention to the economic advantages of tourism, as to draw attention to the more important advantage of tourism as an investment in friendship. We know that the people of one nation get peculiar ideas about the peoples of other nations. We know that unless and until they meet each other and exchange views they are liable to be biassed and prejudiced against each other, and in my opinion travel, with its personal contacts and its close friendships formed, can do much to remove those prejudices and those wrong ideas.
During the war thousands upon thousands of young men came across to the United Kingdom and spent their time there meeting our people, in their homes, in billets, in our great military camps, and they contributed in no small measure to even the road building of our country. Today those men are back again in Canada, and today I am certain that many of them think of the time when they shall return to the United Kingdom to see old friends, see familiar places and get to know the people whom they knew in the dark days of the war.
The British Travel Association recently put forward in Canada a movement known as Operation Friendship. Some of you who read your paper, and I hope all of you do, would notice a full page advertisement there, headed "Operation Friendship", with a message from His Majesty The King, inviting every Canadian veteran to become an Honorary Overseas Member of the British Travel Association. We sent to 33,000 Canadians who applied for membership cards and notices telling them the privileges that were theirs as Honorary Members. That card is today held by 30,000 veterans in this country and applications are still being received for the privileges of Honorary Membership at the rate of some hundreds per week.
Why did we put out that Operation Friendship notice? We put it out because we want those men who experienced the difficulties and the dangers of war t-o come and see us in time of peace and get to know us in a different set of circumstances.
I should be very foolish if I did not admit today that in Great Britain there are shortages. I should be extremely ill-advised if I did not admit and admit freely that we are passing through a difficult stage in economic affairs. But I will say this, that in spite of our difficulties and in spite of austerity, the United Kingdom is still the most favoured and the best tourist country in Europe. That is a big statement to make, but I make it on no less authority than the result of thousands of questionnaires which we put out to American and Canadian investors, asking them to give us their opinion and their reactions to their visit. Those questionnaires came back and I am proud to say that in every case there was this significant statement: We have been surprised at the service, the courtesy and the friendliness of the people of the United Kingdom, and we intend to make a repeat visit.
I think these questionnaires give the lie to some misapprehensions that have existed on this continent and I say, even today, come over to the United Kingdom. See us, meet us, and what will you find? You will find a nation where there is even distribution of what there is available. You will find a nation struggling and working hard to bring about a return to prosperity. You will find a nation in the threes of a tremendous period of change, a period which was bound to come to any nation after six years of struggle and war such as we went through. Above all, you will find a friendly, warm-hearted people, who understand and appreciate and love you and know that behind them and with their and alongside them stand the people of Canada to the last man.
And that, My Friends, means a great deal to us in days of difficulty and in clays when we are faced with problems of some magnitude. We are not afraid of the problems we have got to face. We have faced problems bigger before and defeated them and in asking you to come and see us I have no hesitation in saying that when you come you will share with us in our life and you will find much that is worth while.
As I came from my home in Kent to Southampton for this voyage I travelled by road and I went through some of the beautiful leafy lanes of Kent, with their gorgeous autumn tints, their general friendliness and their general feeling of comfort, security and solidity, and then through the widening lanes and the little villages of Surrey, down to the coast. And then I had a feeling which I think would be the feeling of any Canadian visiting that glorious country. I felt proud of the fact that I was British.
I did not come, as I have said before, to brag or to beg. I did not come to condone or to condescend. I shall always be proud of the fact that there in the land of my birth is beauty, peace and security, such as is not surpassed by any other country, that there is the home and the beginnings of a great ideology which has stretched across the world, which has carried the name of that little country to the furthest corners of the earth, and which today is responsible for the fact that here on my left hand flies the Union Jack.
My Friends, I have tried in the few minutes at my disposal, because I really could take at least an hour and a half to give you any adequate picture, I have tried to tell you that visitors from this continent will be welcome not only for the sake of the dollars, because although dollars and cents are an important factor, and I am sure that my banker friends around the table here will agree with me they are all important in the structure of civilization, they are small and insignificant compared to the important factor of spiritual idealism. Without that idealism the dollars and cents are worthless and useless and you can pile up dollars and cents by the million and you can pile up gold reserves and you can pile up anything you like, it will never take the place of a sound understanding and a solid friendship.
My Friends, today as I speak to you we have in Australia and New Zealand, my colleagues speaking on the platforms there, taking this message to the people of those great nations. In Canada it may seem to you that in speaking from this platform I am rather like the minister who is preaching to the converted, but in doing so my hope is that my message may spread to further fields, may reach other people who at the moment may not have exactly the same feelings on this subject as you have, and I hope that they on thinking this over and on reflection will agree with me that travel, free travel and movement of peoples between the nations is one of the finest investments in friendship that any nation can make.
Canada can help. Canadians, far from eating the rations of a starving population, will be contributing to the economic prosperity of the nation by visiting us, seeing us, getting to know us, and using our services.
And I think I cannot do better than to close my remarks today--I promised the Chairman I should not speak too long--with a little verse which I have carried around with me for quite a long time and which from the bottom of my heart I commend to you and to all connected with you
These things shall be:--a loftier race Than e'er the world hath known, shall rise, With flame of freedom in their souls And light of knowledge in their eyes.
They shall be gentle, brave, and strong,
To spill no drop of blood, but dare
All that may plant man's lordship firm
On earth, and fire, and sea, and air.
Nation with nation, land with land,
Inarmed shall live as comrades free;
In every heart and brain shall throb
The pulse of one fraternity.
John Addington Symonds.