Advancing Responsible Business, Lawful Rights of Employees to Sustain Tourism Development

9:53:51 AM | 6/27/2022

The tourism industry must pay more attention to responsible business and human rights to become a vital economic sector that is highly competitive and develops sustainably.

The fourth outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on Vietnam's tourism industry, which has gone into "hibernation". Vietnam's tourism market is almost completely "frozen." Many people have lost their jobs and are struggling to make ends meet.

Tourism enterprises, on the other hand, have made important contributions to the development of the tourism industry as well as the recovery of the Vietnamese economy following the pandemic.

Travel and tourism enterprises received and serviced 228,400 overseas travelers and 48.6 million local tourists in the first five months of 2022.

According to the World Economic Forum's (WEF) newest study, Vietnam's Travel & Tourism Development Index (TTDI) in 2021 ranked 52nd, up eight places from 2019, and is one of the three nations showing the biggest improvement.

Promoting responsible business

In response to the following question from the media, “In the post-COVID-19 recovery period, what should tourism companies do to ensure sustainable development for their businesses?” Mr. Nguyen Le Phuc, Deputy Director General of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, stated that “Travel and tourism businesses should continue to focus on building brands, improving competitiveness, promoting digital transformation, and improving human resource quality to meet the growing needs of tourists so as to play a leading role in promoting tourism recovery”.

Mr. Phuc also mentioned that tourism businesses should focus on employee training and have policies in place to attract experienced and skilled tourism workers to return to the workforce. Additional training with fresh professional knowledge and skills appropriate to current conditions is required to support workers in returning to work. Tourism enterprises must engage with relevant authorities to provide training courses in professional skills to newly hired workers in order to increase the quality of the workforce.

"It is necessary to link with destinations and airlines to create new products, renewed tourism products that are suitable for the market, exploit potential tourism products and services, and promote competitive advantages such as beach resort tourism, golf tourism, and medical tourism," Mr. Nguyen Le Phuc added.

Mr. Tran Dinh Thuong, CEO of Autic Partner, stated: "The post-pandemic sense of responsible business is to constantly innovate and comply with the law, while protecting the lawful rights of their employees."

This understanding of responsible business is analyzed by CEO Tran Dinh Thuong through the following factors:

Regarding the market and society, tourism businesses must comply with service standards in terms of the requirements of different sectors and business domains in order to give guaranteed services to clients in the post-pandemic market; Set a reasonable charge for the service you're providing; and Abide by all laws on business, tourism, and other laws. They should not try to get around the law or break the law's standards if they are in difficulty.

Regarding supply chain inputs, it is vital to ensure prestige, solvency, and debt limits for input sources. Difficulties in one part of the tourism value chain will have an impact on others.

Regarding human resources, it is vital to secure basic funding or resource allocation for employees and to establish conditions for employees to return to work; and get training, support, and direction to reintegrate into the working environment in terms of human resources. Besides embedding human rights into operations, strategy and culture play an important role because it ensures a people-centric approach. Human rights should not be seen as an “add-on” but as central to business strategy, operations, culture and risk management.

Ensuring human rights

Over the years, the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) and the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), with support from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), have collaborated on a program to strengthen business capacity and train future business leaders in the areas of responsible business conduct and human rights in Vietnam.

Specifically, VCCI and AHRC have collaborated on a Corporate Sustainability Index (CSI) Report, as well as in the analysis and identification of a number of specific indicators relating to responsible business and human rights.

At the launch of the Corporate Sustainability Index 2022, Australian Ambassador to Vietnam, Robyn Mudie, stated: "What is different in this year’s CSI is a new human rights indicator which assesses whether businesses have a public human rights policy that commits the business to respecting human rights in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Ranking higher in this indicator raises a business’ reputation and builds trust from partners, investors, and stakeholders".

Within the framework of the program "Advancing responsible business in Vietnam", VCCI and the AHRC have also developed the Guidance on Responsible Business Conduct in the Tourism Industry in Vietnam (the Guidance), in order to identify the key human rights challenges and risks that arise in the tourism industry in Vietnam and provide practical guidance based on international frameworks and principles.

To meet their responsibility to respect human rights as per the United Nations (UN) Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, companies in the travel and tourism industry in Vietnam and elsewhere must recognize their responsibilities to apply human rights due diligence in order to identify, prevent, mitigate, and account for how they address their impacts on the human rights of people and communities. The Guidance aims to help businesses operating in the tourism and travel industry in Vietnam understand and fulfill their responsibility to respect all human rights.

The Guidance also indicates that being a responsible business means embracing a different understanding of risk which centers on “risks to people” as well as “risks to business”. Additionally, meaningful engagement and consultation with key stakeholders will enable businesses to get a holistic picture of its human rights risks and impacts.

Mr. Nguyen Quang Vinh, Vice President of the VCCI as well as Chairman of the Vietnam Business Council for Sustainable Development (VBCSD), said that the COVID-19 pandemic had demonstrated that responsible business conduct and respect for human rights may help firms be resilient to crises and recover quickly.

Mr. Nguyen Le Phuc stated that the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism released the Project on Developing Tourism Human Resources in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the 2021-2030 period under Decision No. 3624/QD-BVHTTDL dated December 31, 2022. This is the foundation upon which the tourism industry may continue to implement investment plans, organize the assessment and re-evaluation of tourism human resources, invest in vocational worker training and retrain to support hotel, travel, tour guide, and tourism promotion activities.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism also directed the Tourism Development Support Fund to invest in human resources training initiatives, as well as to assist tourism agencies and businesses in training courses to foster necessary knowledge on state governance, corporate governance, and professional ethics for tourism workers.

It cannot be denied that the tourism industry is highly sensitive to the impact of both objective and subjective factors. In order to achieve sustainable development, tourism businesses must always be proactive in responding to any challenges. In the post-COVID-19 environment, the tourism industry's long-term viability will very much depend on its robust engagement with responsible business and human rights.

By Vietnam Business Forum