Frequently Asked Questions

This section aims at clarifying frequent doubts about the UNWTO Draft Framework Convention on Tourism Ethics that may arise. Most answers can be found in one of these four blocks:


General Questions

Why a Convention on Tourism Ethics? Why now?

The General Assembly of the UNWTO adopted in 1999 The Global Code of Ethics for Tourism as a voluntary instrument with a view to guiding all tourism stakeholders towards a responsible and sustainable development of tourism worldwide. The Code of Ethics comprises nine principles that aim at maximizing the sector’s benefits while minimizing the potentially negative impact on the environment, cultural heritage and societies across the globe.

The Code of Ethics has proved extremely relevant for promoting responsible policies and practices and has received wide acceptance globally from both public and private sectors; however, in terms of the practical implementation of its principles it was felt that a more binding instrument would reinforce its effectiveness at international and national levels.

For this reason, the UNWTO General Assembly decided in 2015 to initiate the process for converting the voluntary Code of Ethics into an international legally-binding convention open to ratification of Member States with the intention to enhance its application.

For UNWTO to have its first International Convention based on its cornerstone document is of great significance, especially at a time when the uninterrupted growth of international tourist arrivals has reached a record of 1.2 billion persons crossing borders in 2016 (doubling the figures of tourism in 1999).

The English text of the Convention was approved by the UNWTO General Assembly in September 2017, A/RES/707(XXII). The next step now is to adopt the text in all the UNWTO official languages. Once adopted, States Parties that decide to ratify the text commit themselves to formulating policies consistent with the Ethical Principles in Tourism spelled out in the Convention.

The approval of the Convention on Tourism Ethics is particularly timely since 2017 was declared by the UN General Assembly the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. The Convention further attests to the special role of tourism in the implementation of all the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals, specially contributing to the promotion of inclusive and sustainable economic growth (Goal 8), responsible consumption and production (Goal 12) and the sustainable use of maritime resources (Goal 14).  

Does the Convention introduce any changes to the Ethical Principles in Tourism?

No, the essence of the principles remains as in the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism. The conversion of the Code into a Convention changes the legal nature into binding principles which State Parties will be obliged to implement if they ratify the Convention.

What will be the role of the World Committee on Tourism Ethics under the Convention?

The World Committee on Tourism Ethics is the independent subsidiary organ of the UNWTO General Assembly responsible for interpreting, applying and evaluating the provisions of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism. Its role will remain the same with regard to the Code of Ethics but in addition it will also be responsible for monitoring the implementation of the provisions of the Convention and receiving the reports from the States Parties on the implementation of the latter.

How does the Convention relate to the Code of Ethics? 

Although often praised as extremely relevant for the globalized tourism industry, the Code of Ethics, adopted in 1999, remains a list of non-binding guidelines, or a soft-law instrument.

In contrast, the Convention on Tourism Ethics, once it obtains the first ten required ratifications and enters into force, will create duties and obligations for States Parties, including the obligation to reflect the said ethical principles in domestic legislation and relevant policies as well the obligation to periodically report on the implementation of those principles to the World Committee on Tourism Ethics.

In addition, the Convention is supplemented by an Optional Protocol which sets out a conciliation mechanism for settling disputes between States, or between States and tourism development stakeholders, concerning the interpretation or application of the Convention. 

While building on the success of the Code of Ethics, the Convention marks a decisive step forward for the promotion of sustainable and responsible tourism.

What will happen to the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism now that the Convention is approved?

The Global Code of Ethics will coexist with the Convention. The voluntary implementation mechanism of the Code will still function through the World Committee on Tourism Ethics that will continue to report to both the UNWTO and UN General Assembly.

The Private Sector Commitment to the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, which is addressed exclusively to tourism companies and its trade associations, will remain valid. The Private Sector Commitment to the Code will simply become more relevant for the companies and associations of those States that ratify the Convention.

Who prepared the text of the draft Convention and how?

Shortly after the 21st General Assembly decided that the Code of Ethics should be converted to a convention and requested the Secretariat to start preparations to this effect, a Working Group was set up to undertake the drafting exercise. All UNWTO Member States were invited to be part of the Working Group.

The Working Group was finally composed by representatives of 36 Member States, assisted by the Secretariat, and held five meetings. The Chairman of the World Committee on Tourism Ethics participated in all meetings of the Working Group.

The final draft of the Convention was circulated to all Member States in June 2017 for their comments and transmitted to the General Assembly for consideration and possible adoption. 

Amendments from Member States were received in August 2017 and the Working Group discussed whether the proposed amendments should be incorporated to the text. 

The 22nd General Assembly established an ad hoc Committee that took the final decision regarding the proposed amendments, taking into account the recommendations of the Working Group. The ad hoc Committee met in Chengdu, China on 13 and 14 of September prior to the consideration of the Convention by the plenary of the General Assembly.
 

Who is covered by the Convention?

The present Convention refers to all stakeholders in tourism development, including public and private institutions such as national and local governments, tourism enterprises, tourism associations and other juridical persons having stakes in tourism development such as NGOs. On the other hand, the Convention also covers individuals involved in tourism, including employees and professionals, tourists and excursionists, as well as local populations and host communities.

The Convention can be ratified by all UN Member States, whether they are UNWTO Members or not. Its effects will cover the abovementioned stakeholders.

Does the Convention give rise to legally binding obligations and, if so, which are these obligations? 

Yes, it does for States that ratify it, and these obligations are all concerning the implementation of the principles and the rules contained in the Convention. Thus, State Parties shall:

1)            Formulate policies and adopt laws and regulations that are consistent with the principles mentioned above.

2)            Encourage tourism enterprises and bodies to reflect those principles in their contractual instruments.

3)            Periodically submit a report to the World Committee on Tourism Ethics concerning the compliance with these obligations.

Becoming a party to the Convention

•             States ratifying means adopting internal legislation?

Not necessarily. Some States may have internal laws and regulations already in line with Convention, while others may need to adjust their national legislation or policies in order to comply with the obligations set out in the Convention.

•             How and when will the Convention enter into force?

The Convention has approved the 22nd General Assembly of the UNWTO in September 2017. Once adopted, the Convention will be open to formal acceptance, or ratification, by Member States.

Initially, the Convention requires ten ratifications in order to enter into force. Thereafter, it will take effect for any subsequent ratifying Member 30 days after its instrument of ratification has been deposited and registered with the Secretary-General of the UNWTO.

Optional protocol

•             What is the Optional Protocol to the Framework Convention on Tourism Ethics regarding a conciliation mechanism?

The Optional Protocol is an independent legal instrument, whose ratification is not mandatory. It supplements the Convention with a procedure to resolve disputes arising out of the application and interpretation of the Convention in a peaceful manner before resorting to litigation.

 •             What does the Optional Protocol add to the Convention?

The Optional Protocol establishes a conciliation mechanism for the amicable resolution of disputes arising out of the Convention.  States Parties and/or stakeholders in tourism development can submit to the World Committee on Tourism Ethics any dispute arising from the application or interpretation of the Convention. The Committee will formulate recommendations and decisions in order to help Parties come together and find a mutual amicable solution. Unlike international arbitration, decisions of the Committee will be binding only if Parties in dispute agree to abide by them.

Benefits

•           What are the benefits of the Convention for a State?

Tourism, being one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world, has experienced continuous growth in the recent decades, doubling the number of tourist arrivals since 1999, the time when the Global Code of Ethics was adopted.

In an interconnected world where the business volume of tourism equals or even surpasses that of oil exports, ‎food products or automobiles it is important to set out a framework to ensure that growth is dealt with responsibly and that it can be sustained in time.

By ratifying the Convention, States are undertaking an obligation towards responsible and sustainable development - preserving the destinations’ cultural and natural tourism resources, protecting the local communities and ensuring a responsible, sustainable and universally accessible sector. This sends a clear message to all stakeholders operating in and visiting a destination that is clearly in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and respects the spirit of the 2017 International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

Procedure

•           What is the procedure following the approval of the Convention by the General Assembly? 

The Office of the Legal Counsel of UNWTO has prepared an Explanatory Note to help member States understand the procedure of the possible adoption of the draft UNWTO Framework Convention on Tourism Ethics and the process by which member States may become legally bound to the Convention. To download the Note, please click here

 

*Updated on 4 October 2017


If your query is still unsolved after reading this section, you can contact ethics@unwto.org