BANGKOK, 20 February 2017: UNWTO should be applauded for its efforts to introduce a charter on tourist protection. It’s a subject that rarely raises glasses in a toast of support at travel trade cocktail parties.
The trade is usually preoccupied with protecting its own interests in the time of crisis. That could extend to outdoing competitors with a not-to-be missed discount loaded with small print to trap consumers during a tour operator’s hour of need.
UNWTO has put the shoe on the other foot this time looking at how we should care for consumers in their hour of need.
It has taken its time with this lofty ‘convention’ so hopefully it will be worth the long wait. Its first meeting was convened in 2011 and there is one more meeting to go before the document is presented to the UNWTO World Assembly for ratification.
You could say it is the tourist version of the Warsaw Convention as it seeks to set out the guidelines for how a country should treat tourists in a time of crisis.
All member states of UNWTO will be asked to sign the convention and if the document has teeth it could go a considerable way to empowering consumer protection when tourists most need it.
Core clauses will address the need to treat travellers kindly during a national crisis. An airport closes, stranding tourists so what are the guidelines to ensure visitors are looked after professionally and in a caring fashion?
Another core clause looks at the responsibilities of travel suppliers. Countries signing off on the convention will provide assurances that their suppliers will adopt internationally recognised standards to ensure visitors are not cheated or treated badly.
If the tourist protection convention lives up to its advance publicity it will add a valuable layer of confidence and security for travellers.
However, some of UNWTO’s projects in the past have lacked a practical application for travellers to put it mildly. Minsters of Tourism spend considerably time travelling to meetings often failing to ensure the projects they talk about are executed once they return to home.
It would be a pity if the years compiling the charter were wasted like throwing confetti in a headwind.
(See UNWTO tourist protection report on TTR Weekly https://www.ttrweekly.com/site/2017/02/unwto-treaty-will-raise-tourist-confidence/)