Grievance mechanisms

People whose human rights are affected by the tourism industry often do not have the possibility to effectively raise grievances. Here is how you can change that.

Facilitating complaints and improving the situation for affected people (rights-holders) should be an integral part of any company’s human rights due diligence. Grievance procedures must be accessible to people who might be harmed by the company’s direct (own operations) or indirect (e.g. through service providers) activities.

Considering the situation of the travel and tourism industry, where clients might directly witness human rights abuses (or be victims themselves), notification mechanisms should also be accessible to travellers and tourists. The protection of victims must take the highest priority in grievance and notification procedures.

An initial step in the introduction of a company-induced grievance procedure is the identification of groups and individuals potentially affected by human rights abuses. This identification procedure can be carried out by considering the salient human rights risks (see value chain risk assessment on this website) and by defining the potentially affected rights-holders. By conducting a more in-depth human rights impact assessment (HRIA: see measures card on the topic), the company will have a better understanding of who might be affected and who needs access to a grievance mechanism.

As a rule, any tour operator needs to make sure that all of its employees and contracted staff have access to an effective grievance mechanism. For external people, a sector-wide solution might be a preferable option (see measure card on Sector collaboration).

In the tabs below, further information can be found on what needs to be considered to establish an “effective” grievance mechanism and what mechanisms exist.

⇒ Click here to identify your value chain-related human rights risks

For a grievance mechanism to be effective, a company needs to ensure that individuals and groups that are potentially affected by human rights abuses:

  • are familiar with the grievance procedure
  • trust it
  • can easily use it
  • have access to information and consultancy in using the grievance office and
  • are protected against negative consequences (victim protection).

Procedures and deadlines in the handling of complaints should be transparent, appropriate and conceivable. The situation of the people affected by grievances is improved by appropriate and timely remedy measures.

For more details on what questions to ask to assess the effectiveness of grievance mechanisms, check out CSR Europe’s tool (see link below).

Resources

Guidance:

Global Compact Network Germany (2018): Guidance for companies on grievance mechanisms (only available in German)

Tool:

CSR Europe (2013): Assessing the effectiveness of company grievance mechanisms

Many companies already have grievance mechanisms/compliance hotlines/whistleblower policies in place for their employees. Often, they are an integral part of Human Resource Manuals or Company Code of Conducts (see measure card on Policy & process). If your company already has such a process defined, make sure it meets the effectiveness criteria (see tab on “effectiveness”).

Other instruments used by companies include:

  • Worker committees
  • Feedback mechanisms for customers and tour guides after travelling. They may cover topics related to the salient human rights risks identified by the company (see value chain risk assessment on this website)
  • Anonymous employee surveys / management surveys, including questions on human rights-related issues

Forum der Bereisten (Studiosus): The consultations provide an effective way to understand the situation in the destinations from the locals’ perspective and to start a dialogue between a company and the local population.

Examples

Studiosus has established a grievance mechanism specifically for human rights issues. It is available to customers and all other stakeholders. The Studiosus Committee for Socially Responsible Travel is in charge of dealing with grievances, enquiring on the case and – if necessary and possible – providing remedy.

Mailbox: HumanRightsAlert [at] studiosus [dot] com;

More information (in German only).

Some companies decide to work with specialized external companies to install a grievance mechanism that meets the effectiveness requirements.

Consider collaborating with industry peers to develop joint grievance procedures (destination-specific or focused on specific rightsholders/issues), especially for potentially affected people who are not employed by the company.

If there are existing external mechanisms available, promote them to customers, staff, business partners and potentially affected people.

Other external solutions might include:

  • Defining an external ombudsperson
  • Contracting an external provider offering high-quality IT-based grievance mechanisms
  • Encouraging business partners to install or promote hotlines / contact points
  • When contracting service providers where employees, customers or other stakeholders are potentially affected by human rights abuses (see value chain risk assessment on this website), integrate a clause in the contract requiring them to install an effective grievance mechanism for their staff. This could, for example, be international transport service providers or cruise suppliers.

Examples

External grievance mechanisms on child rights violations: 

  • ECPAT campaign "Don't look away" to report incidences of sexual exploitation of children in tourism.
  • Child safe movement’s website contains a list of national hotlines & websites in various countries to report any form of child abuse or child in danger.

Hospitality Speaks is an independent, not-for-profit platform launching at the end of March 2019. The aim is to create a safe online space for hospitality employees to share their anonymous stories of bullying, harassment and discrimination, and platform some of the issues: 

https://www.hospitality-speaks.com/

Resources

Learn more

Find more information in the Resource Centre.