Corporate Social Responsibility is becoming more and more important for the tourism industry. At ITB 2014 in Berlin this was an important topic of discussion, within which I mainly concentrated on “human rights due diligence”. Within an expert’s panel discussion the challenges and opportunities for companies were addressed. Representatives from Kuoni Travel Ltd., ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents), Leisure Inbound Walkers Tours, Tourism Watch, ILO (International Labour Organization) and the consultancy Mascontour gave an insight into their professional experiences and perspectives.
It goes without saying that businesses should be profitable for everyone including tour operators as well as local workers. Every speaker on the panel supported the notion that human rights have to be respected. Human rights have to be addressed of every tourism product offered by travel companies. One major focus herein lies on education. This is a very important part, as everybody has the right to education and education is crucial for future prospects. However, key risks appear to be local policies; especially in countries like Sri Lanka or India. It requires the participation of all stakeholders on all levels. However, for countries with many different policies, it is not easy to comply with those Furthermore, in some regions society is, unfortunately, very conservative; women are not allowed to work and right in those regions it is hard to change something and to comply with human rights due diligence.
According to Tourism Watch the concept of due diligence is to exert an influence on the whole supply chain. Therefore, a certain power balance between different stakeholders is necessary. Locals are in need of dialogue on eye level and tour operators and further suppliers have the chance and the possibility to communicate on site. ILO supports this view and recognizes that tour operators are the local players at the local supply chain and thus have the opportunity to actually do something. Additionally, there is a need for discussion how to implement human rights due diligence. Working in line with human rights is often seen as an act of charity; however, these actually are rights that count for every human being on earth. Respecting human rights has to be a core value of businesses and they should focus on the prevention of breaches.
For Kuoni Travel Ltd. social sustainability and thus social responsibility is a quite important component of their business philosophy. One action in this regard is that Kuoni cares for fair salaries along the supply chain of their products. Fair salaries lead to satisfied and motivated employees which in return increases the quality and customer satisfaction of tourists. ABTA has a quite similar perspective. Business needs to be successful for every member, also from a human rights perspective. Consequently, ABTA for instance, focuses on education.
In October 2012, the initiative “Roundtable Human Rights in Tourism” has started. As a multi-stakeholder initiative it fulfills the demand of knowledge transfer and exchange of the tourism industry. Many actors are willing to work towards a more socially sustainable tourism sector but do not know how to do that. At the moment the initiative counts 10 tour operators and 5 NGOs as their members. Together they published an implementation guideline as the implementation process is a critical element for tourism suppliers. Nevertheless, topics like communication and trainings and thereby raising awareness of everyone – not only of tourism stakeholders but also of tourists – still is a crucial part in dealing with the issue of human rights in tourism.
The following link leads to the Management Guideline Human Rights in Tourism