Kayan women tourists

Human Rights

The right to turn on a tap and see water come out, the right to access coastal land to sustain your livelihood, the right to walk around your neighbourhood, the right to privacy – these are all human rights we take for granted. But what if these rights were taken away from us – and what if the reason was because of tourism?

This is the reality facing thousands of people every day. The tourism industry is so large and consuming that it frequently violates people’s human rights, particularly in destination countries in the developing world.

Tourism Concern believes that human rights must be protected as a priority if tourism is to contribute meaningfully to eradicating poverty. That’s why we started our Putting Tourism to Rights campaign, demanding an end to human rights abuses in tourism. TheUK Government and tourism industry must take steps to ensure that the rights of local people in tourism destinations are protected in line with international law

The Issue

Tourism is one of the largest and fastest growing services industries in the world. It has the potential to generate many jobs and create great wealth. However, all too often, tourism’s benefits are not equally shared. In fact, tourism development frequently violates people’s human rights, particularly poor and vulnerable communities in developing countries, exacerbating poverty and trapping people in cycles of deprivation.

Such rights abuses include:

  1. Displacement from homes and lands to make way for tourism developments
  2. Loss of livelihoods
  3. Loss of access to natural resources, such as grazing land, coastal areas and fresh water and their cultures as tourist attractions
  4. Poor pay and for tourism industry employees

These abuses arise out of government failure to protect the rights of citizens, as required of them under international law. In their pursuit of foreign investment and currency exchange, many governments prioritise the interests of big business, allowing exploitation and human rights violations to go unchecked. This is particularly the case in many poor countries, where adherence to human rights norms and standards may be weak. Businesses also have a responsibility to respect the human rights of workers and local communities. However, market competition and consumer demand for cheap holidays means these responsibilities are often not upheld.

Tourism Concern’s solutions

Tourism Concern calls on all major tourism stakeholders to take action to ensure that the human rights of individuals and communities in tourism destinations, and industry employees are respected and protected.

Key recommendations include:

  • The UK Government establishes a UK Commission on Businesses, Human Rights and the Environment to hold UK businesses operating overseas accountable for their human rights and environmental impacts.
  • The tourism industry takes responsibility for mitigating human rights abuses that occur throughout their supply chains by undertaking independent social and environmental impact assessments as part of a process of human rights due diligence, based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Download our latest industry briefing, Why the tourism industry needs to take a human rights approach: The business case
  • The UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) facilitates greater participation of civil society organisations in UNWTO processes and ensures that member countries are in compliance with the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics. Read our official call and download our briefing.
  • Destination governments protect their citizens from human rights abuses perpetrated by the tourism industry and implement regulations and planning controls which ensure sustainable tourism development.

What you can do

We are urging the UK Government to set up a Commission on Business, Human Rights and the Environment that will hold companies to account for rights violations committed overseas and provide access to redress for victims.

You can support this campaign by becoming a member and helping us lobby for change.

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