Background of the International Code for the Protection of Tourists
The International Code for the Protection of Tourists (ICPT) provides a set of minimum international standards for the protection of tourists in emergency situations and consumer rights of tourists in the post COVID-19 scenario. It draws from the work produced by the Organization and has been adjusted to adapt to the particular circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic, with a view to ensuring a coordinated approach to the assistance of international tourists during emergency situations.
The COVID-19 crisis revealed the absence of an international legal framework to assist international tourists in emergency situations, as well as the lack of uniformity regarding tourists’ consumer protection rights.
During the crisis, the closure of borders with little notice left hundreds of thousands of tourists stranded abroad, millions of flights were cancelled and the situation soon deteriorated, impacting negatively on the confidence of tourists regarding their rights to assistance in emergency situations and consumer rights in general.
In order to support the efforts taken by Member States in restoring tourists’ trust and confidence, the Secretariat firstly developed the recommendations for the assistance to international tourists in emergency situations with a view to developing an International Code for the Protection of Tourists thereafter.
To attain this objective, pursuant to decision 4 (CXII), adopted by the Executive Council at its 112th session, a special committee for the drafting of an International Code for the Protection of Tourists was created (ICPT Committee).
In accordance with its Terms of Reference, the mandate of the ICPT Committee was to draw from the work produced by the Organization – in particular the draft “UNWTO Convention on the Protection of Tourists and on the Rights and Obligations of Tourism Service Providers” as endorsed by resolution 686(XXII) – and develop a proposal for an International Code that includes minimum standards and recommendations for assisting tourists in emergency situations and consumer rights of tourists in the post-COVID-19 scenario, and to present such proposal to the General Assembly for adoption.
While international travel was gradually resuming after the COVID-19 breakthrough, the timely creation of the ICPT Committee arose great interest across the public and private sectors. In fact, the ICPT Committee featured the unprecedented participation of ninety-eight (98) Full and Associate Members, as well as five (5) non-member States of UNWTO, who contributed to the development of the overall text of the ICPT by providing comments, suggestions and proposals to its five different chapters.
In fulfilling its mandate, the ICPT Committee had been supported by independent experts of internationally recognized legal expertise and received regular input from the Affiliate Membership and a number Observers from a diverse range of international organizations and private stakeholders, including, among others, the EU Commission, ICAO, UNCTAD, ECTAA, the Expedia Group, the International Law Association (ILA) and the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH).
Under the acting chairmanship of Greece, the ICPT Committee held eleven (11) meetings, over a total of thirteen virtual sessions, during which it revised and discussed overall text which was elaborated in the five different chapters of the Code, together with the Secretariat and with the support of the consultative Group of Experts.
In less than a year, the ICPT Committee progressed beyond the initial expectations and successfully completed its mandate by presenting a proposal for the “International Code for the Protection of Tourists” to the General Assembly for adoption.
Finally, at its twenty- fourth session held on 29 November – 3 December 2021 in Madrid (Spain), the General Assembly adopted by consensus the ICPT through resolution 732 (XXIV). Likewise, through the aforementioned resolution, the General Assembly called upon the Member States of both the UNWTO and the United Nations to adhere to the ICPT and invited them to submit a written notification to the Secretary-General of the UNWTO in respect of their intention to adhere to the ICPT and subsequently of any specific activities undertaken in this respect.