Hotel workers across the Asia-Pacific call for a secure, safe and sustainable recovery of tourism on World Tourism Day 2020

PRESS RELEASE – 21 September 2020

Trade unions representing hotel and tourism workers in 14 countries* in the Asia-Pacific region are commemorating World Tourism Day on September 27 with a call for a safe and sustainable tourism recovery. 

With hotels, resorts and establishments closed and millions of tourism workers jobless as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, unions are calling on governments to provide social protection and job protection and for employers to retain workers, pay wages and respect rights. 

“Employers in the hotel, restaurant, catering and tourism industries need to retain workers and avoid layoffs, ” said Dan Urai, General Secretary of the Fiji National Union of Hospitality Catering and Tourism Industries Employees (NUHCTIE). “They must prepare to re-open safely and regain the trust of customers and tourists. That means retaining skilled, experienced workers to be ready for tourism recovery and training them in the new safety protocols. There’s a lot of work to do to prepare for a safe reopening. And you can only do that if your job is secure.” 

“What workers are saying is they are not redundant, they are ready for the safe re-opening of hotels and establishments,” said Galih Tri Panjalu, General Secretary of the Indonesian Federation of Hotel, Restaurant, Plaza, Apartment, Catering and Tourism Workers’ Free Union [FSPM]. “That means hotels and resorts need to retain workers as an investment in the safe and sustainable recovery of the industry. It also means that employers should not take advantage of the situation to attack unions and undermine workers’ rights.”

The unions also called on governments to implement comprehensive action plans and policies that support the recovery of the tourism industry as an important source of jobs and national economic growth. This includes support for the small and medium enterprises that employ the majority of tourism workers. 

“Governments need to be proactive in supporting the recovery of a sustainable and safe tourism industry”, said Kenji Okamoto, Deputy Vice President of the Japan Federation of Service and Tourism Industries Workers’ Unions [Service Tourism Rengo]. “Small hotels and tourism businesses need government support to avoid bankruptcy, retain workers and pay wages. They employ a lot of workers and their continued operation is important for local communities. These small hotels and tourism businesses need help to be ready for the recovery of tourism. At the same time, governments across the Asia-Pacific need to strengthen protection of workers’ rights and employment.”

At the same unions are calling for more government action to shape the direction of the new tourism industry after COVID-19

“This crisis is also an opportunity to build back tourism better,” said Danny Edralin, General Secretary of the National Union of Workers in Hotel, Restaurant and Allied Industries (NUWHRAIN) in the Philippines. “We cannot go back to the way the tourism industry was before the COVID-19 pandemic. The whole industry was too fragile and too dependent on mass package tourism from just a few countries. It was causing too much overcrowding, too much pollution and showed no respect for our culture and traditions. Wages were low and jobs were insecure, seasonal and not permanent. So there was not much benefit to the local community. We need to build tourism back better so that it is more environmentally sustainable, preserves our cultural heritage and makes a better social and economic contribution to our communities.”

*Cambodia, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, The Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, The Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor Leste, Vanuatu

Published by Hidayat

IUF Asia/Pacific Regional Secretary