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Call For Ethics Education Across Tourism Sector


The promotion of sound ethical principles would improve the economic well-being of tourism-dependent countries, while ensuring the livelihood of millions, asserted a consultant for one of the top global public relations practices. Professor Deon Higgins, who practices ethics training at the New York-headquartered Ruder Finn, believes ethics education and training are indispensable tools for the tourism industry.

"Unethical conduct often results in negative publicity that can be devastating. I believe that ethics training for sustainable tourism, at every level within the tourist industry, is critical," she told delegates attending the recent 19th Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism in Kingston, Jamaica. Tourism being the leading source of foreign exchange and government tax revenues for many countries in the region, the Jamaica-born Higgins believes the establishment of a comprehensive ethics training program can enrich the experience of visitors, and add value to the already strong Caribbean tourism brand.

"Effective tourism ethics training, manifested in how we receive and treat our visitors, the conduct of tourism-related personnel – from the point-of-arrival to point-of-departure – can result in a virtuous cycle of positive word-of-mouth that can fuel repeat visits, loyalty and goodwill. It can also play a critical role in mitigating tourism-related risks," she says. Stakeholders within the tourism industry, she adds, should understand the ethical implications of their conduct when exercising responsibilities.

"Appropriate personnel should be made aware of the laws, regulations and practices that govern their conduct and should be encouraged to go beyond what is legally required to make decisions that are ethical," she notes. A Certified Compliance and Ethics Professional (CCEP) and adjunct associate professor of public relations at Fordham University in the Bronx, Professor Higgins proposes ethics training for sustainable tourism should include: a personal ethics self-assessment by managerial staff; the development of vision statements and codes of conduct; the establishment of an ethics office and the development of an organizational culture of ethics. Integrity, she says, should be "so embedded that the 'right' conduct becomes a habit.
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