In the development of tourism and new hotels and resorts, to what extent should the consideration of human rights come into play? I have often thought about this and I know it is a complex topic. Should tourists travel to places where human rights abuses are prevalent? Should investors invest in and build hotels or resorts, or should a franchisor franchise its brands in countries notorious for the abuse of human rights? As a supplier should you sell your products or services?
In Green Lodging News I have run several articles about The Red Sea Project, a development in Saudi Arabia. It is a huge sustainable development and upon completion in 2030, The Red Sea Project will comprise 50 resorts, offering up to 8,000 hotel rooms and around 1,300 residential properties across 22 islands and six inland sites. The destination will also include luxury marinas, golf courses, entertainment, and leisure facilities. Chairman of The Red Sea Development Company is Saudi Arabia’s His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince.
This past week, a newly declassified intelligence report concluded that the same Crown Prince is likely to have approved an operation to kill or capture journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a frequent critic of the Crown Prince, inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. This murder is just one of a long list of human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia according to Human Rights Watch.
China is Another Example
Within the last couple of weeks I posted an article about a Marriott project in Shanghai. In that article, Henry Lee, President, Greater China, Marriott International, said there are now over 400 Marriott hotels spanning 23 brands in more than 90 cities in China. I am not picking on Marriott here. Their article just happened to appear very recently.
For China, also according to Human Rights Watch, 2020 was quite a year for human rights abuses. They began the year by initially covering up news about COVID-19. In Hong Kong, following six months of large-scale protests in 2019, the Chinese government imposed a draconian “National Security Law” on June 30—its most aggressive assault on Hong Kong people’s freedoms since the transfer of sovereignty in 1997.
In Xinjiang, Turkic Muslims continue to be arbitrarily detained because of their identity, while others are subjected to forced labor, mass surveillance, and political indoctrination. In August, satellite imagery study by Buzzfeed revealed that Xinjiang authorities had built over 260 “massive” detention structures since 2017, providing more evidence to support earlier findings by rights groups and journalists that Chinese authorities are arbitrarily detaining Turkic Muslims en masse.
Our Own Country
While not rising to the levels found in China or Saudi Arabia (or Russia or many other countries), policies and incidents in our own country were scrutinized as well in Human Rights Watch’s most recent report. Some of the injustices cited: The grossly disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black, brown, and Native people, the police killings of Black people, the attacks on people of Asian descent after the pandemic began, the United States leading the world in incarceration rates—approximately 2.3 million people were locked up on any given day in 2020. The pandemic aside, how many people do you think chose not to come to the United States in recent years because of its policies? Again, a complex question but I suspect there were quite a few turned away by the media images they saw in recent years.
I challenge our industry to be more vocal when it comes to human rights abuses in any country, including our own. Do what you can to help the victims. I am not a big fan of boycotting because the common man and woman suffers but have the courage to speak up against human rights abuses. I know it is a tightrope dance and this may be wishful thinking on a grand scale, but evil regimes especially should not benefit either directly or indirectly from your business decisions and spending choices.
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