Tricia Barnett in this interview addresses issues linked to tourism sustainability which are often overseen and insufficiently addressed in mainstream sustainability discourse, namely human rights and equality in tourism. Learn how, first through the organization ‘Tourism Concern’ and now with ‘Equality in Tourism’, Tricia has helped and empowered women around the world, the lessons she has learned, and her advice to tourism professionals who are keen to improve gender equality in tourism.
- What brought Tricia Barnett to focusing her career on tourism and human rights;
- Milestones achieved through Tourism Concern, and lessons learned;
- How the initiative Equality in Tourism works towards a more sustainable tourism by promoting gender equality;
- The UN Sustainable Development Goals and why they fall short, in terms of gender equality and tourism;
- Advice to hotel or tour managers on how to empower women as part of their ambition to become socially responsible, sustainable businesses.
Tricia; you have been involved in responsible tourism and human rights advocacy for many years. Do you remember what brought you to the topic in the first place?
How can I forget? It was provoked by a long holiday hitching on my own in Cuba where I had the most brilliant, open, hospitable experience. This was followed the next year by a miserable, fraught, hostile holiday in Jamaica where even taking a bus could be problematic.
Soon afterwards, I signed up as a very mature student to study anthropology. I took the opportunity to research into tourism to Jamaica. Why were the two experiences so very different? I learned that tourism had come to Jamaica following the abolition of slavery in the late 19th century and replicated the social patterns of the plantation economy.
I got deeper into the subject and began to understand tourism’s impacts on people’s human rights. I followed up by signing up to the first ever Masters’ degree in the Anthropology and Sociology of Travel and Tourism. Tourism Concern then provided the vehicle to campaign for a sustainable, participatory and just tourism.
Now in 2017, (how) has your view on tourism and its human rights ‘performance’ changed?
Critical to our work has been partnering with people and groups in the South who approached us for support and advocacy. Often they live under repressive regimes and they don’t have the freedom to campaign openly. Their stories haven’t changed.
I feel sad to see the same patterns of abuse repeated over and over again. Governments and industry still fail to recognise that human rights are a fundamental element of any sustainable approach to development.
At Tourism Concern we produced two reports on tourism and human rights, the first prompted by the 50th anniversary of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Little had improved by the time we produced our second report. As with all our reports we listed recommendations and calls for action to ensure people’s protection.
Examples of human rights abuses include people’s right to water. There are huge problems of appropriation, depletion and pollution of water by hotel and resort developments because of unregulated tourism. This is true particularly for island communities. People’s environments, living standards, livelihoods and development opportunities are undermined.
Working conditions and labour rights are also commonly abused by every sector of the tourism industry globally.
We also produced very well researched reports on the business case for the tourism industry to understand why business needs to take a human rights approach. They covered risk management, competitive advantage, social sustainability, business leadership and ethics.
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