More than 100 countries, alongside international organizations and leading business groups have agreed to adopt harmonized standards for assisting tourists caught up in emergency situations, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said on Wednesday.
The UNWTO is in the process of launching an International Code for the Protection of Tourists, which will be the first legal framework to safeguard tourists’ rights as consumers.
The committee tasked with the international code’s development has agreed on the text of the first two chapters, which contain seven key principles for a landmark legal code aimed at restoring confidence in international travel in the wake of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
The importance of harmonization of protocols, balance, coordination, cooperation and accessibility, are among the seven core principles agreed by the committee. “We can only restart tourism if we restore trust in travel,” UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said.
Published by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the “Assistance to International Tourists in Emergency Situations” code is aimed to provide guidance to countries worldwide on how to help tourists affected by emergencies, including but not limited to health emergencies.
“People want to feel safe and looked after when they travel. And the code for the protection of tourists will provide this, based on the collaboration of the global tourism sector and governments,” Pololikashvili added.
The committee also agreed on a set of recommendations relating to providing tourists affected by emergency situations with information, assistance and, if necessary, repatriation.
The UNWTO expects the ongoing consultation process to produce an internationally-recognized code for the protection of tourists before the end of the year.
Alongside representatives of more than 100 countries, the committee counts on the participation of the European Commission and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Private sector stakeholders include the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the International Forum of Travel and Tourism Advocates (IFTTA), the European Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Association (ECTAA), the umbrella Association for Hotels, Restaurants and Cafes in Europe HOTREC, Expedia, and Allianz Group.
The results from the deliberations of the committee will be published on an interim basis as it advances minimum tourism consumer protection standards at the international level to provide guidance to countries for the recovery and the restart of tourism.