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UNWTO Looks to Protect Tourists’ Rights as Consumers Through New Initiative

Photo source: UNWTO

Photo source: UNWTO

Tourists are to be given greater legal protection as consumers under new plans being advanced by the UNWTO

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has announced plans to launch an International Code for the Protection of Tourists, which will be the first legal framework to safeguard tourists’ rights as consumers.

A committee created for the development of the international code recently had its first meeting and saw the active participation of 92 UNWTO Member States. Together, they adopted a concrete plan of action to restore tourists’ confidence in travel, through a common and harmonized framework.

“With restoring confidence a key priority for the sector, the International Code for the Protection of Tourists advanced by UNWTO with the support of almost 100 Member States so far, will make the support available to tourists affected by emergency situations clearer and more consistent globally,” the organization said.

Helping tourists in trouble

Ahead of the committee’s meeting, the UNWTO published Recommendations for the Assistance to International Tourists in Emergency Situations, laying the ground for the International Code for the Protection of Tourists.

The recommendations are addressed to states and designed to ensure that responsibility for tourists in emergency situations is shared fairly across the whole of the tourism value chain, including:

  • Preventing possible disruptions by drawing up contingency plans and coordination protocols and training tourism stakeholders to assist tourists in emergency situations
  • Providing real-time information for tourists
  • Addressing cross-border cooperation between governments and tourism service providers
  • Fostering close collaboration between governments and travel and accommodation providers
  • Addressing the effective repatriation of tourists.

According to UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili, uncertainty and a lack of trust in travel are among the biggest challenges the industry is up in restarting tourism following the coronavirus (Covid-19) pademic.

“An International Code for the Protection of Tourists will be a landmark step towards addressing this,” Pololikashvili said, underlining that the establishment of a standard set of minimum consumer protection measures for tourists will help make people feel safer and more confident in international travel.

“It will also ensure that the responsibility of managing the disruptions caused by this pandemic is shared fairly across the whole of our sector,” he added.

The UNWTO is aiming to present a progress report on the development of the international code at its next general assembly (end of 2021 in Marrakech, Morocco) for approval by member states.

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