Legal experts, academics, and representatives from the public and private sectors gathered in Salamanca, Spain from 30 November to 1 December 2023 for the inaugural seminar on the International Code for the Protection of Tourists. The purpose was to discuss the Code’s accomplishments in the first two years since it was introduced and to identify the forthcoming challenges.
Amidst the global pandemic, the importance of a cohesive legal structure to support tourists became evident. Despite the immense challenges faced by the tourism industry, UNWTO swiftly developed a significant legal tool, incorporating valuable insights from various UN agencies, over 100 countries (including both members and non-members), and the private sector. This groundbreaking instrument was approved at the 24th UNWTO General Assembly in 2021, within a remarkably short span of two years. Its role in rebuilding trust in travel and generating interest in the Code has been widely acknowledged, as evidenced by the participation of 22 countries that have committed to its adherence.
UNWTO, in collaboration with the University of Salamanca and Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University, hosted the first-ever legal seminar. This event aimed to explore in greater detail the principles and recommendations for supporting international tourists.
Tourism and international law
Over two days, leading experts contributed their insights and inputs during a series of multilateral panel discussions. The panels focused on several of the key challenges, with a focus on supporting the recognition of Tourism Law as an independent branch of the legal system. Highlights included:
- A focus on Tourism Law as a branch of international law, with contributions from leading experts from United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs, the Interamerican Development Bank and the Office of International Standards and Legal Affairs.
- The creation of a PhD program on Tourism Law with the Universities of Salamanca and Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University, to support advanced studies and education in this specific branch of the legal system.
- As assessment of the Code’s potential role in crisis management, drawing on the lessons of the pandemic and counting on the expert insights of leading academics.
- An exploration of what the minimum standard of protection for tourists could be, as well as discussions on contractual issues relating to delivering assistance in emergency situations, and recommendations for best practice around protection of tourists in the context of digital services, emergency prevention as well as assistance and repatriation.
Best practices and opportunities
In addition to tackling the main obstacles to better defining and incorporating Tourism Law into broader national and international legal frameworks, the Seminar emphasized the potential benefits of complying with the Code. This was reinforced by showcasing real-life examples of successful implementation, such as Uruguay’s commitment to the International Code for the Protection of Tourists and their endeavors to enforce it through dedicated legislation at the national level.
Expert panelists set out the case for “when crisis becomes an opportunity”, making clear that the Code can help balance responsibilities between countries, businesses and tourists themselves in emergency situations.