As a fundamental frame of reference for the recovery of tourism in post COVID-19 era, the International Code for the Protection of Tourists (ICPT) provides a set of minimum international standards for the protection of tourists in emergency situations and consumer rights of tourists.
Addressed to governments, public and private stakeholders and tourists themselves, the ICPT aims at restoring consumers’ confidence and making the travel environment more attractive by creating a feeling of safety for tourists/travelers and improving the contractual relationships between providers and recipients of the various tourism services.
Adopted by resolution 732 (XXIV) of the General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the ICPT provides practical guidance as to policy, legislation and regulatory practices for all those, in the public and private sector, who have obligations, responsibilities, duties and rights regarding the matters dealt with therein.
“We can only restart tourism if we restore trust in travel. People want to feel safe and looked after when they travel. “
Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO Secretary-General
The COVID-19 crisis has revealed the absence of an international legal framework to assist international tourists in emergency situations and a lack of uniformity at the international level regarding tourism consumer protection rights.
During the crisis, the closure of borders with little or no notice left hundreds of thousands of tourists stranded abroad, with millions of flights being cancelled and the situation soon deteriorating. Many of these travellers were left in a foreign environment without assistance, including safety and security, health services and consular assistance, and sometimes without sufficient resources to meet their basic needs, such as food and shelter. The lack of clarity regarding one another’s obligations, duties, and responsibilities to provide care and assistance in emergency situations created great uncertainty around tourists’ rights, impacting negatively on the confidence of tourists in international travel.
This experience has highlighted significant failings in the current legal and regulatory frameworks, and the existing disparities regarding the consumer rights of tourists from country to country. Moreover, the introduction of measures such as vouchers and the boom of new digital tourism services without a clear, transparent, and harmonized framework, along with the sharp increase of litigation in travel and tourism disputes, present additional challenges for restoring consumers’ confidence.
In order to support the recovery of the tourism sector, the ICPT was created with a view to restoring tourist confidence by developing and harmonizing minimum international standards, and providing sufficient guarantees for the protection of international tourists in the post COVID-19 world.
The ICPT comprises five chapters relating respectively and including recommendations on:
- CHAPTER ONE: Definitions and Clarifications
- CHAPTER TWO: Assistance to International Tourists in Emergency Situations
- CHAPTER THREE: Tourists’ Protection in Contracts
- CHAPTER FOUR: International Settlement of Travel and Tourism Disputes via Alternative Means of Dispute Resolution
- CHAPTER FIVE: Mechanisms for Adherence to and the Application of the Recommendations of the International Code for the Protection of Tourists
ADHERENCE TO THE ICPT
Although the ICPT is a voluntary instrument of a non-legally binding nature, it features a set of mechanisms for adherence to ICPT by States, for monitoring and reporting on its application within their countries, as well as for the evaluation and interpretation of its principles and recommendations.
In accordance with its Chapter Five, States are required to adhere to the ICPT fully or partially and to express their willingness to apply its principles and recommendations within their country through a formal notification to the Secretary-General of the UNWTO.
The ICPT addresses private tourism stakeholders directly and encourages them to uphold and promote the principles of the ICPT. In particular, tourism service providers are encouraged to commit to the ICPT, uphold its principles and apply its relevant recommendations, so far as possible, by integrating them or make specific reference to them in their contractual instruments signed with tourists. Applying ICPT recommendations will contribute to increasing tourists trust and confidence when booking a trip or tourism service.
BACKGROUND OF THE ICPT
The ICPT was called for in a decision of the UNWTO Executive Council, meeting in Tbilisi, Georgia, in 2020. In less than a year, the Committee for the development of an International Code for the Protection of Tourists (‘ICPT Committee’) was established and a draft proposal for the ICPT was developed, in consultation with a group of independent experts and a number of observers from a diverse range of public and private stakeholders, and submitted to the UNWTO General Assembly, who adopted it by consensus at its 24th session held in Madrid, Spain, in December 2021.
In its resolution 732(XXIV), the General Assembly calls upon the Member States of both UNWTO and the United Nations to adhere to the Code, and invites them to inform the Secretary-General in respect of their intention to adhere thereto and subsequently of any specific activities undertaken in this respect.
Articles Source: UNWTO