Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

9 Apr, 2015

PATA CEO steps up to the plate, denounces racial profiling in travel

Bangkok – Pacific Asia Travel Association CEO Mario Hardy has become the first head of a major international travel organisation to speak out against the scourge of racial profiling in the travel & tourism industry.

Writing in his April 8 blog headlined “Ambassadors for Tourism, for good and for peace…”, Mr Hardy said, “Today, I call for an end to racial, religious and social profiling and ask all nations to train their immigration officers to be Ambassadors for Tourism, for good and for peace by accepting the world as it is, a world of different beliefs, colours, cultures.”

He added, “I am appealing to all Heads of Tourism organisations to work with their immigration services to turn them into your best and most valuable ambassadors. Ambassadors of the country’s brand you have worked so hard to promote and get recognised for.”

Without mentioning any countries or ethnic groups, Mr Hardy cited his own example, being married to a Mauritian of Indian origin.

Mr Hardy said, “As my wife and I are set to travel around Europe for a week, we worry as we do every time we travel to Europe or North America. We worry about that dreadful experience of our first contact with the destination, the Immigration entry point. We worry about the frequent racial, religious and social profiling that we often fall victim of, because we are a mixed-racial couple that looks different.”

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 6.53.24 AM

“However, we are often welcomed by serious faces that appear to consider everyone a threat. In addition, if you happen to be a different colour, show sign of a different religious belief, or dress slightly different, you are more likely to be questioned in a different manner. This is something that in my travel I have often witnessed and more so in North America than anywhere else in the world.”

The appeal has raised PATA’s advocacy agenda to a higher level, and underscored the role of PATA as the “voice” of the Pacific-Asia travel industry.

One of the many misguided policies driving the “war on terror”, racial profiling is mainly targetted at Muslims, and those mistaken for Muslims, especially Sikhs, who have both beards and turbans, and are most likely to be singled out for extra checks at airport security checkpoints, both inbound and outbound.

The PATA region, which Mr. Hardy represents, is heavily populated by Muslims, ranging from the Muslim-majority countries of Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Malaysia to other countries where Muslims comprise a significant minority such as India and China.

They comprise a large segment of the global travelling public. Within Muslim communities worldwide, stories about racial profiling abound, especially at U.S. border checkpoints but also in Canada, Europe and Australia.

A large number of U.S. civil liberty and ethnic representative groups have spoken out against racial profiling, and filed lawsuits to seek transparency and accountability. Although governments make the usual noises about trying to avoid it, the practise continues.

The problem is that travellers have no recourse for redress, except filing a complaint which usually disappears in a bureaucratic black-hole.

Racial profiling has been in place for the last 15 years, since the 9/11 attacks. This is the first time that any travel industry CEO has denounced it in public.

Now that the PATA has put this controversial issue into the public domain, it will open the way for US travel industry representatives to be questioned about what they are doing to curtail this gross violation of human rights in the name of security.

It should also force other travel industry associations and organisations to reconsider their long-standing silence. They, too, can expect to be held accountable.

Read Mr. Hardy’s full blog here: http://www.pata.org/ambassadors-for-tourism-for-good-and-for-peace/