Responsible product development

When developing new products, make sure human rights are considered from the outset. As a first step, the salient human rights risks for the company’s operations and its value chain should be kept in mind (see value chain assessment).

As a basic rule, it is about applying common sense judgment in which the best and most responsible choice needs to be determined. Questions product developers can ask when developing new products and tours include:

  • Would I be proud to take my family, friends and colleagues on this excursion?
  • Have I adequately considered alternatives?
  • Could my company lose customers or shareholders if they found out we offer/source this product?

The two following examples provide general reflections on sustainable excursion planning:

The following tabs provide information on tools and considerations which can help improve responsible product development.

⇒ Click here to identify your value chain-related human rights risks

Certifications
Community involvement
Diversity & Inclusion
Indigenous people
Volunteering
Fragile contexts
Other considerations
Certifications

Examples

When choosing service providers while developing new products, look out for third-party certifications that confirm a potential business partner is respecting human rights. The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) provides a list of certifications that meet high standards.

Some tour operators decide to develop their own company “label” for responsible tourism (second party audit) based on their own criteria. To ensure credibility, such criteria should be made publicly available and take human rights issues into account.

Transat promotes sustainable hotels with “certifications that meet the GSTC requirements" (May 20th, 2018)

Resources

Recommendations

For some local initiatives, receiving international certification is not possible (size, price, know-how etc.). Working with certified providers is therefore not the only way to promote responsible tourism.

Community involvement

In some destinations, community-driven tourism initiatives can be found already. Some are well developed and can be contracted immediately. Others, however, are lacking know-how and skills about the quality standards expected by international tour operators. Some direct engagement and training might be needed to bring them up to speed and for them to become an adequate partner.

If no established community-driven tourism initiative can be found in a specific destination, engagement with local communities is needed before taking up operations. They should be consulted on their opinions about tourism development in their region, on their ideas and on how they could best benefit from tourism development in their area.

Find local artisanal cooperatives who work for the benefit of the local community (e.g. with women, children etc.). Develop partnerships with those institutions, including integrating visits to shops where those products can be bought in tours, and encourage tourists to buy from those local initiatives directly.

Examples

Examples of community-based tourism initiatives: 

  • Co’ox Mayab brings together various social enterprises committed to the promotion of responsible tourism in Yucatan, Mexico. It promotes the commercialization and training of initiatives dedicated to alternative community-based tourism in the Mayan region. 
  • The Bulungula Lodge in South Africa sustains local culture and the planet, and is 100% owned and managed by the traditional Nqileni village, a Xhosa community.
Video on the Co'ox Mayab initiative in Yucatan, Mexico (see examples below)

Resources

  • Lokal Travel: The website can be consulted to find interesting partners in specific countries: “We seek out travel providers that support local livelihoods, celebrate cultural traditions, preserve historical sites and love to share their passion and local knowledge with travellers."
Diversity & Inclusion

Develop products that specifically take into account the needs of people with disabilities (including accessible hotels, accessible rental cars, etc.).

Examples

  • Intrepid Travel Gender Equality: For the last few years, Intrepid Travel has made an effort toward gender equality in all levels of their operation. They provide local women employment as tour guides, doubled their female tour leaders and launched all-female Women's Expeditions to countries where women have traditionally not had an equal opportunity to economic empowerment. 
  • Trips, Inc. Accessibility: Trips, Inc. is an award-winning company that provides vacation packages and travel experiences for teens and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 
  • Silversea Cruises Accessible Shore Excursions: Through its partnership with Accessible Travel Solutions, Silversea offers accessible excursions to senior guests and travelers with disabilities. Enhancements range from vehicles with wheelchair lifts or ramps to trips to sites that have step-free access, accessible restrooms, and guides who are experienced with accessibility issues.   
  • WHOA Travel plus adventures: As an adventure travel company for women by women, WHOA Travel tends to offer high-level fitness trips. What makes them uniques is their WHOA Plus segment, which creates a space for plus-size women to adventure together.
  • tour de sens spirit of inclusion: The award-winning tourist company tour de sens offers accessible travel experiences for blind, visually impaired and sighted travelers. In the spirit of inclusion, tour de sens brings people with and without disabilities together. Moreover, the website has been designed according to the accessibility criteria of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
  • Scandic Hotels Accessibility: Scandic developed a checklist of 159 points called Scandic's accessibility standards. Without exclusively addressing people with disabilities, Scandic has taken up the cause of accessibility, integrating it into the overall concept and linking it to further accessibility initiatives. Moreover, the hotel chain offers an interactive online training in accessibility that focuses on practical advice and instructional videos for hoteliers.   
  • Since 20 years Procap organizes holidays for people with handicaps (only available in German, French & Italian).

Resources

Indigenous people

Indigenous people are among the most disadvantaged people in the world. Often living in resource-rich regions, in many cases their way of life is threatened by economic interests. Being a minority group, they are often discriminated socially, economically or politically which makes it difficult for them to participate in decision-making processes that affect their way of life and culture. When developing touristic offers to areas where indigenous people live, take specific care to make sure your product is respectful of local traditions.

Examples

  • By signing the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), Expedia Group acknowlegdes the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, cultures, and communities. Joining a network of more than 1,100 corporate, government, and not-for-profit organisations that have made a formal and long-term commitment to reconciliation through the RAP program, Expedia Group takes an important step towards leveraging their diverse spheres and supporting equality and equity. An Inclusion and Diversity team works on accelerating the evolution and adding representation from diverse viewpoints and experiences.

Resources

  • G Adventures has developed practical guidelines for travel companies that work with Indigenous communities. They are meant to encourage responsible conduct and guide good business practices that serve and protect the interests of Indigenous communities and travel companies and produce authentic visitor experiences.
  • Tourism Concern published a report including guidelines for best practice, aiming to introduce some of the key issues surrounding Indigenous people and tourism, dealing with main themes and offering examples of both good and bad practice. 
  • The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) is committed to indigenous peoples and minorities, supporting them in strengthening their human rights.
  • Minority Rights Group International works to ensure that disadvantaged minorities and indigenous peoples can make their voices heard.Through training and education, legal cases, publications, media and cultural programmes they support minority and indigenous people as they strive to maintain their rights – to the land they live on, the languages they speak, to equal opportunities in education and employment, and to full participation in public life.
  • Survival International works to stop companies from destroying tribal lands, lives and livelihoods across the globe. They give tribal people a platform to speak and lobby governments to recognise indigenous land rights, expose the atrocities committed against tribal people and take direct action to stop them. 
  • The Indigenous Navigator provides a framework and a set of tools to monitor indigenous peoples’ human rights and ensure they are not left behind.
Volunteering

Prior to developing new volunteering offers, carefully carry out due diligence in terms of the partner organisation on the ground. Only offer specific assignments that are based on the needs articulated by the local community (e.g. specific expertise requested by local population) and which do not compete with the local job market. Enable transfer of knowledge and expertise to empower the local community and enter solid partnerships with local organisations. Define a minimal duration of stay for volunteers and avoid short-term placements, especially when children are involved. Exclude day visits to schools in your itineraries.

Resources

Guidance: 

  • Responsible travel: Various volunteering guides outlining related issues by volunteering type and destination.

Report: 

Fragile contexts

In post-conflict situations, tourism is often one of the first sectors to experience a new boom. For instance, in Sri Lanka after 26 years of civil war, or in Burma when the dictatorship came to an end. Business operations in high-risk environments are faced with unique security and human rights challenges. When operating in destinations that are politically fragile, particular due diligence is needed for the development of touristic products. Learn about the conflict that has affected the country, ask questions about ownership and land acquisition, find out about the composition of staff working in tourism and the participation of community members in the development of this industry.

Consult the guidance developed by the Roundtable Human Rights in Tourism on tourism in fragile contexts to learn more (see link below).

Examples

Resources

Recommendations

Many dedicated people and (civil society) organisations are open to providing information on the situation in a specific country.

Contact them directly – that’s how you most effectively get the most important information. Contact the Roundtable Human Rights in Tourism for help. 

Other considerations

Plan tours in a way that allows drivers to have the necessary rest periods and consult the guidance developed by the Roundtable Human Rights in Tourism on the implementation of labor and social standards for driving personnel in the tourism sector (see link below).

Make sure to uphold child welfare across all areas of business, including the supply chain, to prevent all forms of exploitation and abuse of children (that could be related to travellers and the tourism industry).

Resources

Guidance on driving personnel:

Guidance on Child Welfare: 

Learn more

Find more information in the Resource Centre.