|By Himanshi Dhawan, The Times of
IndiaMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Feb. 4, 2010--NEW DELHI -- With major tourism destinations like Goa gaining the dubious reputation as a haven for sex crimes, the tourism ministry has finalised a code of conduct for "safe and honourable tourism" to be adopted by major stakeholders like hotels, tour operators, cab drivers and other hospitality-linked services. The code is likely to be unveiled on March 8 to commemorate International Women's Day.
The code will entail adopting guidelines that will ensure ethical business practices protecting women and children. This includes training of personnel, awareness drives, ethical marketing and business practices and regulation of usage of official equipment to prevent human trafficking and pornography.
Ministry sources said tourism minister Kumari Selja was keen that an action plan be drawn up to put the code in place as early as possible. The ministry has conducted consultations with industry bodies like PATA and organisations like United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime and Equitable Tourism Option (EQUATIONS) on the issue.
Indian tourism industry has been outperforming global tourism industry in terms of volume of international tourists and revenue. In fact, the World Travel and Tourism Council has named India as one of the fastest growing tourism destinations in the next 10 years. However, there are increasing signs that this growth in travel is not without its negative aspects. There is evidence that child sex tourism and prostitution is on the rise in major tourism destinations and religious hubs like Tamil Nadu and Orissa. Locally, India has been identified as a source, transit and destination point in the international circuit.
With this in mind, the specific guidelines that are being considered include training of personnel to recognise and report sex-related crimes, regulations on usage of hotel and business equipment (that can be misused for pornography) and guest and staff notification through brochures, home pages and in-room information. Stakeholders will have to commit on not using images and concepts that sexually exploit children for marketing and put in place penalties like contract termination with companies who are found indulging in unethical business practices.
Tour operators will be expected to provide information on child sex tourism through travel agencies, catalogues, advertisements and brochures with tickets while airlines are also stipulated to ensure that awareness campaigns are conducted through in-flight magazines, internet links and videos on long-haul destinations.
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