Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Let's Promote Responsible Tourism

One aspect of fighting trafficking that I have really hoped to get into in these 31 Days of Action was ways we could affect the tourism industry by using our voices to advocate for the victims of sex tourism which is a widespread problem in just about every tourism location on the globe, but particularly in the tourist destinations of developing nations. In countries where tourism is based on ecology and biodiversity, it is also often based in areas of poverty, with little infrastructure to protect the natural resources and the native population from exploitation.

In these nations, the Trafficking Persons Report has been a helpful tool to motivate governments to take action to protect their own people. But government action alone will not put a dent into the problem without activists on the ground. The NY Times just this weekend reported that the tourism sector seems to finally be being called to action on this issue in this article. It is not only full of hopeful prospects that we might be able to rely on the tourism sector to do its part, but with inspiration of how one person educated on the issue and willing to speak up can make a difference. The article relates this story:

Michelle Guelbart, private sector project coordinator for Ecpat USA, said the public should get involved too. Not long ago, she said, the Sisters of Saint Joseph, a religious order, contacted a hotel in St. Louis and asked if it had a policy against human trafficking. “The hotel did not,” Ms. Guelbart recalled, “but put one in place.”

So why don't we start asking? Here are some ways we can promote responsibility among the tourism sector:

  • Read and understand the work being done by the Tourism-Child Protection Code of Conduct.
  • Spend your tourism dollars at the organizations that are following the Code and write them to let hem know that they have your business because of that.
  • Contact your local tourism office and ask them to consider joining the Code participants.
  • When traveling, ask about human trafficking policies at your airline, car rental, and hotels and restaurants. Let the owners and managers know that you prefer to support businesses that have anti-trafficking policies in place.
  • When traveling, find out who the local authorities are you should contact in the case of suspicions about trafficking. The more local authorities know that tourists are watching and aware, the more likely they are to respond to reports.
  • Keep your eyes open and stay aware when traveling. Know how to recognize the signs of a possible trafficking victim. If you suspect something, SPEAK UP. Don't stay silent even if it feels awkward. You might be wrong. But what if you were right and said nothing?
  • Talk to vendors and owners in your local tourism industry about prioritizing anti trafficking education and policy. Make appointments with the owners or managers of hotels and other tourism sector businesses locally. Share the resources offered by The Code and other anti-trafficking advocate groups. Share your personal concerns and passions about the issue. Encourage them to step up and do their part.
  • Come back tomorrow and sign the Responsible Tourism Pledge here and share it with others. We can make a difference through increasing our awareness, being more intentional in our behaviors, and educating others. 
  • My son Quinn and I created this button that we are going to e-mail to tourist businesses here in Costa Rica and ask them to post on their web sites. Would you join us in our efforts? Make a commitment to google hotels and other businesses in Costa Rica and e-mail them the button with a personal note requesting they step up and speak out? Or choose your own favorite tourist destination or a place that has your heart for whatever reason, like Cambodia or Thailand or Nicaragua or your hometown, and do the same. If you need our help creating a button for a specific locale, let us know. We'd be glad to help.

  • Don't stop praying! 
This war is being fought and battles are being won by regular people like you and me who are taking risks, speaking out, standing up. Let's put aside our fears and embarrassments and join them. The lives of so many hang in the balance.

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