Human Rights and Holidays – What’s the Connection?


While we’re all still wrapped up in winter woollies, it’s easy to let our minds race ahead to summertime when that scorching (okay, warm…ish) sun is beating down on our vitamin D-deprived bodies. With those January blues stretching out to February, it’s no surprise that winter’s one of the most popular times for booking a summer holiday. Whether it’s a cute little beach hut on a remote island or a popular Airbnb destination an arm’s length from the hustle and bustle of a big city, we all have our idyllic getaway scenarios. However, little do we know, even the most visually beautiful places on earth can in fact be very ugly behind closed doors…

Holiday Heaven or Hell?

…Which brings us to the Maldives. The paradise-like nation is currently host to ongoing political turmoil which is now impacting its holiday industry; foreign governments are issuing travel warnings and hundreds have already cancelled their trips to the Maldives after deciding it’s probably best to stay well clear, reports the Telegraph. This is worrying news considering tourism accounts for a third of the Maldives GDP (gross domestic product) which totalled £2.5 billion in 2017.

According to the BBC, President Abdulla Yameen’s decision to refuse to honour a Supreme Court order to release jailed opposition leaders, which led to a “state of emergency” being imposed by authorities, was “condemned internationally.” The news site added that some observers have said “tourists should boycott the country on human rights grounds.” While discussing the events unfolding in the Maldives, the BBC asked its readership a very thought-provoking question:

Should we all pick our holiday destinations for their ethical credentials? (And would anywhere stand up to scrutiny if we did?)’

When it comes to considering a holiday, many of us have a criterion we’d like the vacation to meet: temperature – check, flight time – check, distance to beach/nearest city – check… we could go on, but we often fail to consider whether our visit will do any damage; our presence could further social injustice or harm the environment for instance. In fact, unless we hear on the news that a place is considered dangerous to visit (the Foreign Office warns against travel to a number of countries and has previously banned Britons from visiting Tunisia following a terrorist attack in 2015 (for example), ethical stance may not enter our minds. Justin Francis, CEO of UK-based agency Responsible Travel, says this could be because the tourism industry paints places like the Maldives as ‘paradise’, when the reality is “less pleasant”. The BBC explains how tourists usually aren’t aware of the hidden “environmental horrors” and potential rights violations in popular holiday destinations such as the Maldives until they see it first hand.

Can You Ensure Your Holiday’s Ethical?

The truth is, it’s rather difficult to select your holiday destination based on their ethical practices, as “it’s hard to find a single destination with a spotless record on human rights, animal rights and the environment,” said Francis. The CEO says what we can do is research whether there are any tourist scams and look into whether our holiday will benefit the local community. The BBC explained how tourist donations kept orphanages open in Bali, but some were “effectively rackets, exploiting children and holidaymakers alike.”

If you’re interested in learning about further destinations which are said to have hidden issues, the Telegraph wrote an article recently titled: ‘Cannibalism, murder and chronic obesity: 10 island paradises with dark and deadly secrets’.

Has the situation in the Maldives encouraged you to check whether your next holiday passes the human rights test? With months to go until summer, there’s still plenty of time to do a little digging…

If travel and tourism’s the sector you want to work in, an HND in Travel and Tourism Management is the ideal starting point. Get in touch with HND Insider for more information.

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