Mr Francesco Frangialli
Secretary General
World Tourism Organisation
Capitan Haya 42
E-28020 Madrid

9 September 1999

Comments on the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism

Dear Mr Frangialli,

Thank you for your sending us the latest draft of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, which we understand will be submitted for approval at the WTO General Assembly at its forthcoming session in Santiago, Chile, from 24 September to 1 October 1999. This latest draft has been discussed by members of TEN and participants of the Riedenberg Seminar, and we would like to make our comments known to you.
We very much appreciated being consulted on the first draft of the Code, and we were pleased to see many of our comments being reflected in the text of the second draft. We feel that this new draft articulates the scope and procedures of the Code in a much clearer form.
We were especially pleased to see some of the specific points we raised being incorporated into the text, such as the equitable sharing of benefits from tourism (Article 5.1); local communities› rights to resources (Article 4.1); and the responsibilities of multinational corporations in tourism development (Article 9.5).
However, we are still concerned that the first focus of the Code seems to be the rights of the tourism industry and of travellers, and the defence of free trade principles. We believe that it is inappropriate for the WTO to so unequivocally endorse liberalisation policies in an ethical code, as liberalisation policies do not have an ethical agenda. We understand the central point of a Code of Ethics for Tourism to be to prevent the exploitation of people in tourism-receiving areas, especially those most at risk. As such, we would like to see the Code having a clearer focus on disadvantaged sectors in tourism-receiving areas and less unequivocal endorsement of liberalisation policies.
Therefore, we would like to see the aim of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism clearly articulated in line with the above. We do not believe that this is conveyed in the current Reaffirmation of the aim of the Code (final paragraph, page 3). We would suggest a definition that included reference to the following:
«Ethical standards are needed when tourism is being promoted ‹in the context of an open and competitive international market economy› because liberalisation policies do not have an ethical agenda. Ethical standards are needed to ensure that all stakeholders in tourism, especially the most vulnerable sectors of society – such as women, children, ethnic and indigenous minorities – benefit from free markets rather than suffering exploitation.»
We would also like to see some qualification of the WTO’s endorsement of free trade policies throughout the text. For example, in the sixth statement of the Preamble (page 4) that states: «But convinced that the world tourism industry as a whole has much to gain by operating in an environment that favours the market economy, private enterprise and free trade and that serves to optimize its beneficial effects on the creation of wealth and employment,» we would like to see the addition: «although countries must be free to select tourism-economy models according to their developmental needs».

In light of our understanding of the purpose of a Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, we would like to see the following points taken into consideration:

  • Article 1.3 should be omitted;
  • The reference to the need to "associate local populations in [tourism] development" in Article 3.5 should be strengthened by replacing this with "the informed participation of local people at all stages of tourism development", in line with the recognised terminology of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD);
  • There is a need for specific reference to women in the Code. Women can suffer particular discrimination and exploitation within the tourism industry, although they can also be empowered through tourism given appropriate structures. The Beijing Conference should be mentioned in the Preamble for reference.
  • In Article 6, ‹Obligations of actors in tourism development›, we were surprised that tourists themselves did not form a separate section. We would like to see the responsibilities of tourists clearly articulated here.
  • Also in Article 6, we do not believe that responsibilities relating to sex tourism rest solely with the press (point 6) and would like to see some reference to the responsibilities of the tourism industry and public authorities also.

Finally, we were pleased to see that non-governmental organisations will be represented on the World Committee on Tourism Ethics. We are not clear, however, exactly how this will work. The draft states that members representing non-governmental organisations (amongst other sectors) will be elected from among the Affiliate Members of WTO. Firstly, we had understood that there was no longer an Affiliate Member sector of WTO, having been replaced by the WTO Business Council. We would be grateful, therefore, if you could confirm whether ‹Affiliate Members› as referenced in the draft refers to the WTO Business Council.
Secondly, we understand that the WTO has contacted Nina Rao and Frans de Man regarding the possibility of their representing NGOs through the Tourism Caucus of the CSD NGO Steering Committee. We would like to confirm that we fully endorse this. However, given that the Tourism Caucus is not on the WTO Business Council, we are unsure as to how this will work. As we are keen for cooperation between the WTO and NGOs to continue, we would be grateful if you could clarify the ways in which NGOs will be incorporated into the future processes of the WTO’s Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, including those relating to implementation and monitoring (that is, NGO representation on the World Committee on Tourism Ethics). We will be interested to know if the WTO decides to focus the work of the multistakeholder working group that it was called upon to facilitate by the CSD on its Global Code of Ethics for Tourism.
We hope the points we have made will be raised in the discussion on the Code scheduled for 30 September 1999. We believe that the WTO’s Global Code of Ethics for Tourism has the potential to contribute greatly to the development of more ethical forms of tourism. We believe that this challenge will only be met, however, if the Code focuses more on the protection from exploitation of those most at risk in tourism. We believe that this is the cornerstone of an ethical policy.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Yours sincerely,

Patricia Barnett

Director, Tourism Concern
On behalf of all members of TEN

Cc. to all the TEN-members and the participants of the Riedenberg-Seminar