The Irish are famous worldwide for their sense of justice and human rights. During my travels, this is something that many people comment on and admire. One active conservationist company providing hiking holidays asked me to write about them recently, and requested specifically that I choose an Irish target audience, “We love Irish visitors” they told me, “as we don’t need to explain to them about leaving no trace as they go, or respecting farmers’ privacy. They don’t just barge into the countryside like gatecrashers at a party. They are always sensitive to local needs.”
That is why I am urgently appealing to Irish tourists to support another organisation which has been striving to put a stop to exploitation through tourism for over twenty years now. This sense of justice and democracy, which the Irish tourist so often demonstrates abroad, is something the charity Tourism Concern has been actively campaigning for, for twenty years now. Like so many charities at the moment, it is struggling to survive and it recently announced that it won’t make it beyond the end of the year, unless it gets an urgent injection of funding. I have often referred to Tourism Concern in Ethical Traveller, because its work is unique. I have seen its Director, Tricia Barnett, in action at international conferences, taking on tourism ministers, multinational hotel chains and tour operators to put a stop to unethical practice. Consequently, they persuaded leading tour operators to adopt policies on labour conditions for hotels represented in their brochures with their Sun, Sand, Sea and Sweatshops campaign, and their Trekking Wrongs: Porter’s Rights campaign forced many international trekking companies to improve the lives of hundreds of porters and their families. It has also created huge international awareness of breaches of human rights in the name of tourism in Burma, put a hold on bulldozers which are wiping out local communities to build mega-resorts, and keeps up a constant awareness campaign on the horrors of the child sex tourism industry.
Tourism Concern has just put an urgent appeal out to the UK travel industry, where the charity is based. The appeal is called Tourism Concern 100, because it hopes that 100 travel companies will donate £1000 each in order to sustain the charity into the next decade. However, the Irish travel to many of the same destinations which Tourism Concern strives to protect, and also benefit from the ethical framework which it has put in place for us, so I wanted to share the appeal with you too.
I love writing about the ethical companies I come across on my travels, and giving them a voice. I am hoping that some of these will now offer a little bit back to the organisation which paved the way for exemplary ethical practice in tourism. Or perhaps some of those large businesses which have contacted me for advice on how to incorporate travel into their impressive Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies can offer support. Inform your employees of Tourism Concern’s campaigns, make a donation, or why not consider getting individual annual membership (only £24 or equivalent in Euros) for each employee who travels regularly for work? To become a member, see tourismconcern.org.uk or for a one-off donation, please go to www.justgiving.com/tourismconcern/donate.
And if you are planning any international travel over the next year or so, I would always advise checking out Tourism Concern’s website or buying their superbly informative travel guidebook, Ethical Travel, which lists audited eco-accommodations in many destinations, as well as ethical tour operators to guide you when you are there. You can buy this on their website and, if you can also afford annual membership, then you will be doing your bit and flying the Irish flag of support for good ethical work in the way that we are so often proud to do.
An edited version of this article was first published in The Irish Times, 31/10/09