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Sometimes Politics Should Enter Our Conversations

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To what degree does how a country is governed, and how its people are treated, permeate the process you go through to decide where to build and from where to buy? I thought about that, as I have many times, this past week on the 25th anniversary of China’s Tiananmen Square Massacre. On June 4, 1989, hundreds, possibly thousands died after gathering to voice their displeasure with corruption and their desire for freedoms that they lacked.

Today the Chinese government is doing all it can to erase the memory of that event from its history—jailing those who talk about it and scrubbing the Internet of its traces. Has anything really changed in China?

Since that historic day in 1989, China’s economy has boomed, the standard of living for most Chinese has improved (as the environment has suffered greatly) and many in our industry have taken advantage of China’s growth—building hotels, resorts, and buying goods and services.

Business Before Freedom

I am not naïve. We do not live in a perfect world and business often comes before human rights and freedoms. China is nowhere near to being the only country where dreams are squashed with fear and bullets.

We as an industry can at least do a better job making what is happening in China, Russia and elsewhere a part of the conversation when it comes to sustainability. Certainly it should be part of the conversation when it comes to purchasing and supply chain but it should also be part of the conversation when considering hotel and resort development. And, it would be nice to “record” such considerations in sustainability reports that summarize your company’s corporate citizenship activities.

Growing the ideas of democracy and freedom is impossible if we all run and hide from those places where they are stepped on. That is the dilemma business leaders and other tourism stakeholders face daily. Nobody wants to economically harm those who most need an economic boost. While we can trust that the citizens of thug-run countries will learn from us as we travel among them, we cannot trust that their leaders will change. Perhaps, just perhaps, those leaders will listen if we base more of our buying and building decisions on how they treat their people—people like you and me who to deserve the right to vote, freedoms of the press and expression, freedoms of sexual expression, and the right to live without fear and inequality.

As far as our industry has come, there are still ideals we need to be more vocal about. Your thoughts? I can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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