Under the slogan “Tourism & green investments,” the UNWTO is celebrating World Tourism Day 2023 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. As with their growing profile in sports, Saudi Arabia is using tourism to project an image which differs significantly from reality. One need only consider the situation for women and LGBTI people in Saudi Arabia, the constant denial of their rights and the brutal repression to which they are subjected, to see the gap.
The fight against inequality and discrimination in tourism should be among the UN World Tourism Organisation’s top priorities. As is too often the case, tourism workers suffer sexual harassment, perpetrated by colleagues, management, and customers. Research by IUF affiliates shows that globally 50% of hotel workers have experienced sexual harassment at least once in their life. Workers in tourism have the right to work free from violence and sexual harassment in the world of work.
As the UNWTO focuses World Tourism Day on “green investments,” it is astonishing to see no reference in its concept note to workers and their role in shaping the industry. As the climate crisis accelerates, workers and trade unions must negotiate a just transition so that decent union jobs with rights define the future of sustainable tourism.
IUF General Secretary Sue Longley stated, “World Tourism Day is an opportunity to recognize the economic contribution that tourism and tourism workers make. Once again, the UNWTO fails to acknowledge the contribution of workers and refuses to engage with the trade unions. This must change.”