Kate Simon: Tourism and human rights should go hand in hand
Kate Simon is the Travel Correspondent of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday. She was Travel Editor of The Independent on Sunday from 2005 to 2011. Kate is also the co-founder of Little Black Book Creative (www.lbbcreative.co.uk), which offers editorial services, media relations consultancy and travel-writing training.
Sunday 13 November 2011
The global tourism industry descended on the World Travel Market in London's Docklands last week.
This annual trade fair, held at the Excel conference centre, is gigantic – it must wear out enough shoe leather to keep an army of cobblers in business. From Albania to Zambia, every self-respecting destination and travel company beats a path here to show off their wares and seal lucrative deals.
Away from the stands (which, despite the recession, are dressed ever more lavishly each year), there's an interesting programme of seminars, where debates rage about everything from automated sales to adventure tourism trends.
One session caught my eye: "Business and Human Rights: Challenges and Opportunities for Tourism" doubled as the launch of an important industry briefing by the campaigning group Tourism Concern. It has published a report urging the travel industry to integrate a human rights approach into its business strategies.
While many players, large and small, are trying to acknowledge their responsibilities towards the environment, far fewer have even embraced the notion of developing a sustainable approach to the rights of workers and communities where they have business interests.
Tricia Barnett, of Tourism Concern, tells me: "No one wants to go on holiday thinking that they are part of a process that could be abusing human rights. Of course, they would never know. Human rights abuses are hidden. It could be that they're luxuriating in a wonderful pool or playing golf, unaware that the demand for water to supply them might leave locals without access to clean water."
The problem isn't confined to draining local resources. As Tricia points out, the treatment of staff is also a major problem. "We might not realise that our tip could make the difference as to whether a chambermaid can send her children to school because she doesn't earn a living wage."
Tourism Concern believes governments should be called to account when they fail to uphold citizens' rights. "And we hold the travel businesses responsible when they don't pay due care to respect human rights," adds Tricia. "There's an onus on them to ensure they are not complicit in rights violations."
The group wants to get the industry to face the challenges and practicalities of taking seriously their corporate responsibility on human rights. So, the seminar's panel included a representative from the Kuoni Group, a holiday company that is developing a human rights policy and framework for implementation based on the Guiding Principles recently published by the United Nations.
The most important point about Tourism Concern's report is that it understands that solid reasons are needed to persuade the tourism businesses to show respect for human rights. It comprehensively lays out the key human rights issues facing tourism, as well as documenting the adverse publicity attracted by companies where they have ignored these principles.
You can get hold of a copy of the report ("Why the Tourism Industry Needs to Take a Human Rights Approach: The Business Case", price £10) via tourismconcern.org.uk. Even if you don't work in the industry, it makes for a compelling and thought-provoking read.
Do you have a travel issue? / Email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
Apple agrees deal with Visa on contactless payments
- 1 Is Apple's iCloud safe after leak of Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities' nude photos?
- 2 Joan Rivers: 'Palestinians deserve to be dead'
- 3 Perez Hilton apologises for Jennifer Lawrence naked photo leak
- 4 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
- 5 Mexican woman becomes world’s 'oldest person' at 127
Rotherham child sex abuse scandal: Labour Home Office to be probed over what Tony Blair's government knew - and when
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
£20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...
£15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...
£30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...
£30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...