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Why the tourism industry needs to take a human rights approach

Tourism Concern have just published a briefing for the tourism industry that addressed the issue of human rights and how businesses can help those mostly in need. This briefing was presented at the London World Travel Market 2011. Here you can read the executive summary.

 Executive Summary

Many in the tourism industry are increasingly embracing the sustainability agenda. This includes some of the smallest and largest tour operators, hotel groups and travel trade associations. The next challenge is for the industry to recognise that true sustainability means taking a human rights approach to tourism. This briefing makes the business case for doing so.

A human rights approach means recognising and addressing the multiple human rights impacts and issues associated with tourism. It makes business sense on several levels. This includes risk management, competitive advantage, social sustainability, and business leadership and ethics. Furthermore, the United Nations (UN) has now clarified and elaborated on the universal business responsibility to respect human rights. This briefing introduces this global baseline standard, as set out in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and urges the tourism industry to engage.

The UN Guiding Principles have received unprecedented levels of support from business leaders, governments and human rights groups. However, the tourism industry has been regrettably absent from their development. The business responsibility to respect human rights applies to all businesses, everywhere – including those in the tourism sector. It relates to direct activities, supply chains, and communities where companies operate. Companies can work towards fulfilling their business responsibility to respect human rights by undertaking human rights due diligence. This enables companies to reduce the risk of their activities harming the rights of others, and helps them to take necessary steps to avert, mitigate or remedy potential, actual or perceived abuses.

Tourism Concern is keen to open a dialogue with industry stakeholders small, medium and large around the challenges and practicalities of taking a human rights approach to tourism. Essentially, addressing human rights effectively will require tourism businesses to think both in terms of their ‘spheres of influence’, which has tended to limit human rights initiatives to issues of child exploitation and human trafficking, and ‘spheres of responsibility’. This shift involves a company recognising its potential to contribute to a range of human rights abuses, and seeking to engage directly and transparently with those who may be affected, including communities in destinations, so that particular impacts can be understood and addressed. Lastly, this briefing outlines a selection of the numerous initiatives, guidelines and toolkits that are freely available online, and which are designed to assist businesses to adopt and implement a human rights approach.

 Unfortunately we did not get permission from Tourism Concern to publish the full briefing for free. You can purchase it on Tourism Concern's website for Non-members £9.99 or Members £7.99.

For more information - http://www.tourismconcern.org.uk/