All quiet at UNWTO: Uruguays tourism minister has a suggestion on Child Protection

It remains all quiet at the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in Madrid. So quiet, that reaching out to media relations at the agency has become a challenge and is met with silence when it comes to eTN. Is it all about speaking out on UNWTO last minute missing outreach at  ITB Berlin on child protection?

After UNWTO unexpectedly canceled the traditional yearly meeting of the Executive Task Group for Child Protection, this wire reached out to members of this group. The overall response was a disappointment by many of the participants and UNWTO member countries, but there was also hope.

The good news is, protecting children that are abused and trafficked through tourism remains a priority in many countries and for many organizations. This was also an assurance mentioned by UNWTO in the letter to the executive task group member when canceling the ITB Berlin meeting.

In a letter received by this wire from Uruguay by Dr. Magdalena Montero, Mr. Jorge Morandeira, leaders of the Regional Action Group of the Americas (GARA), echoed the regret all members of this group had about the unknown cancellation of their yearly ITB meeting.

The message said : “But we must indicate that although face-to-face meetings are essential to promote the prevention of these crimes, the new technologies allow the interconnection through video conferences in different supports, which in some measure supplement the face-to-face meetings and are a measure of savings for our economies, always so in need of funds. In our region, we hold monthly video conferences, we believe it would be a good measure that could be imitated at the level of these meetings held in Berlin.”

“This is an excellent point,” said Juergen Steinmetz, publisher of this wire and  UNWTO Child Protection Executive Task Group member. “I will ask UNWTO to facilitate such video meetings. Hopefully, this would be worth a response.”

The Uruguay Minister told this wire: “We would like to inform you that on the occasion of a meeting of Minister Kechichian with the Secretary-General of the UNWTO, Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili, within the framework of FITUR in Madrid, the issue of prevention was discussed, and it was agreed that it will be one of the topics to be discussed at the next meeting of the UNWTO Commission of America, the 63rd meeting, which will be held in Asunción Paraguay on April 12 and 13. For this, we are working with the National Secretary of Tourism Senator of Paraguay and with the UNWTO. And it will be one of the topics that will be discussed in the international seminar.”

So far, however, the members of the UNWTO task group were not invited or informed about such plans.

As confirmed to this wire by ECPAT, the ECPAT World Summit set for the month of June in Colombia will be another global platform to discuss this issue.

Dr. Magdalena Montero and Mr. Jorge Morandeira representing the Regional Action Group of the Americas (GARA) in Uruguay acknowledged: “The protection of children is an issue that challenges us all, and for prevention, we are working from our respective responsibilities. Best regards, and we are at your service from the Executive Secretary of GARA.”

Steinmetz said: “The idea of a frequent video or phone meetings is something I would support. It remains that canceling public outreach at a global travel industry event at the upcoming ITBnext month sends the wrong message to our global travel and tourism communities, and the wrong message to the traveling public. It leaves those that wanted to share their yearly activities and showcase their initiatives and challenges to the ITB audience in the dark.”

“As a SKAL member, I applaud the initiative by SKAL Germany to include the signing of The Code at the ITB gettogether.”

“Protecting children remains very much alive in the travel and tourism world, and every responsible member of the global travel and tourism industry should make child protection a priority. UNWTO is supposed to be the leader in our industry, and I remain hopeful they will come around and show this leadership and set a positive example and guidance for our industry”, said Steinmetz.” As a UNWTO member state, the minister of tourism in Uruguay is setting this example today.”