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Tourism Sector Presents United Front at UN Forum to Tackle Human Rights Issues

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GENEVA, SWITZERLAND—Representatives from across the travel and tourism industry are coming together at the United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva to call for collaborative actions to end human trafficking, forced labor, the sexual exploitation of children, and share their initiatives that tackle key challenges associated with human rights issues.

The United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights, being held November 26 to 28, is the first time the sector has gathered to discuss possible solutions to these shared challenges before a United Nations audience.

The travel and tourism industry has rapidly expanded in recent years, with international tourist arrivals increasing from 528 million in 2005 to 1.3 billion in 2017. Human trafficking, and sexual exploitation of children affect the travel and tourism industry and no country is immune to this ever-growing risk. However, the industry is also in a unique position to identify the most vulnerable—and to prevent these breaches of human rights.

Crimes Have Direct Impact on Tourism

At the meeting, experts from nonprofit organizations will stand shoulder to shoulder with senior leaders from global travel and tourism companies, united in their shared commitment to tackling these crimes which have a direct impact on the tourism industry.

Speaking before the event, Madhu Rajesh, Director of ITP said: “ITP convenes the world’s leading hotel groups for collaborative action on these critical human rights issues, and in doing so we create practical tools and programs that help the hotel industry as a whole move further and faster than they can working individually. For example, we’ve united our membership around support for ITP’s Principles on Forced Labor and encourage their adoption by the wider industry. Through our work, we aim to convene key stakeholders from the public and private sector and encourage cross-sector collaboration on this vital issue.”

“As the reach of global tourism expands, so too do opportunities for those who travel to harm children by sexually exploiting them,” said Theo Noten, Program Manager, ECPAT Netherlands. “The travel and tourism industry has a key role to play in keeping children safe. Together with business leaders, especially from the travel industry, we call upon the private sector and governments to protect children and meet the commitments made to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. No child should be left behind!”

Hilton Represented at Event

Prior to the event, Mark Ehrlich, Vice President, Global Compliance and Privacy at Hilton declared: “At Hilton, we are working across our value chain to bring attention to human trafficking risks with a 2030 goal of eradicating all forms of forced labor and sexual exploitation. We’ve been proud signatories of the ECPAT Code since 2011 and we are proactive supporters of ITP’s Human Rights Goals and Forced Labor Principles. We look forward to continuing to engage our peers and business partners in these important areas.”

Helen Taylor, Director of Grant Programs at the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery added: “GFEMS is committed to ending modern slavery by making it economically unprofitable, and businesses must play a prominent role if we hope to achieve that mission. We’re pleased to see global tourism business leaders joining forces to work towards our shared goal of fighting human trafficking and hope this forum will motivate other companies to get involved in driving solutions forward as well.”

Helen Marano, Executive Vice-President, External Affairs, WTTC said: “As a global Council which represents all of the segments of the Travel & Tourism sector, we are proud to be leading the path forward for the broader industry’s commitment to the intolerance of and thus the deterring of all aspects of human trafficking. We will highlight and use the key efforts being conducted by members of our Council as a way for others to commit, engage and strengthen the ability of Travel and Tourism to tackle this challenge and to rid the impunity for perpetrators of child sexual exploitation.”

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