India: A pledge and a commitment for safe and honorable tourism
(UNODC ROSA).- 27th September 2010 is celebrated globally as World Tourism Day. India marked this year with a unique milestone when nearly 250 members of the tourism fraternity came together and pledged to abide by the "Code of Conduct for Safe and Honorable Tourism", which the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India had launched on 1st July 2010.
The Code of Conduct lays down a set of guidelines for the travel and tourism industry to ensure that all tourism activities in India protect the dignity, safety and right to freedom from exploitation of both tourists and the local population.
On Monday, 27 September, one week before the official inauguration of the 19th Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India, the Ministry of Tourism called for a pledge signing ceremony at the Hotel Ashok, New Delhi. Addressing the gathering, the Hon'ble Minister of Tourism and Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation Kumari Selja said, "Through signing of this pledge on Safe & Honorable Tourism we are conveying a strong message to the world that neither we nor our organizations will be party to activities that exploit women and children. However, having signed the pledge, we should all endeavor even harder to create wider awareness towards strict compliance of provisions of the Code".
The Code is of immense significance to India, as it is a dominant tourist destination in the South Asian region as well as an emerging international one with an estimated arrival of more than 5 million tourists per year. While tourism has opened up new business opportunities all over the country, instances of crimes and human right violations in connection with tourism, especially relating to the commercial sexual exploitation of children and women as well as to human trafficking have also come to raise questions about - inter alia - the image of the tourism industry. In the light of this, the Code forms a strong basis for joint commitment and organized action by the Government, tour operators and other stakeholders of the tourism sector to maintain proper standards and an honourable image.
The pledge could not have been more timely in view of the just started 19th Commonwealth Games, which brings together more than 6,000 athletes from 71 nations and territories from the Commonwealth. Dr Subhadra Anand, CEO, Save the Children, India explained that, "Not many people coming to India know that there are strict laws against such crimes and that offenders are punishable under the Indian Penal Code. The Code of Conduct makes this very clear. So when hotels put up the Code up at their reception, they give a strong signal that they won't be party to such crimes."
Various associations such as the Indian Association of Tour Operators, Hotel Association of India and other independent service providers signed the pledge on the same day during the ceremony and handed it over to the Hon'ble Minister of Tourism.
Mr Rajeev Kohli, Vice President, India Convention Promotion Bureau (ICPB) affirmed his support to the Code saying "The Code gives a set of goals and values that we should all aim to achieve. These are basic principles that every country should follow. Achieving these goals will also make us look very good compared to our competitors and its good business practice at the end of the day".
After having signed the pledge, the next step will be to conduct awareness building and sensitisation workshops. Two persons of every hotel or tour operating company will be trained and appointed as focal points to monitor that all values, norms and guidelines of the code are respected and adhered to. They will also impart further in-house training to the staff and other service providers. The Ministry of Tourism will finalize the training modules in consultation with UNODC, Save the Children, India and the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) India Chapter.
The Ministry of Tourism plans to make the pledge mandatory for all service providers who apply for recognition or renewal of recognition with the Ministry. A special logo will be made available for display on the websites and in the premises of the signatories. The various associations will be authorized to bestow the logo on their members who sign the pledge, nominate focal points, sensitise staff and display the Code prominently on their premises.
The Ministry Of Tourism in cooperation with UNODC, Save the Children, India and PATA India Chapter drafted the 'Code of Conduct for Safe and Honorable Tourism'. The Code of Conduct is a concrete outcome of the support provided through UNGIFT, the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking.
The following associations signed the pledge in India on 27 September 2010:
Adventure Tour Operators Association of India (ATOAI)
Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India (ADTOI)
The Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI)
The Hotel Association of India (HAI)
Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO)
India Convention Promotion Bureau (ICPB)
Indian Heritage Hotels Association (IHHA)
Indian Tourist Transport Association (ITTA)
Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA)