On March 13-14, travel and tourism industry representatives, governments, experts and NGOs came together to discuss the protection of children in travel and tourism at an International Forum in Cancún, Mexico.
The Forum was supported by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, TUI Care Foundation and TUI Mexico and organized by ECPAT Mexico, Defence for Children – ECPAT Netherlands and ECPAT International.
Protecting children in popular tourist destinations is not just a task for governments, the police and the judiciary. Various stakeholders in tourism play a role in identifying the sexual exploitation of children.
The sexual exploitation of girls and boys is a problem all over the world, but especially acute in popular destinations. There, authorities are confronted with multiple challenges in the protection of children.
“Local police estimate that three to four out of ten female victims of sexual exploitation in the region are children” says ECPAT Mexico’s Norma Negrete.
For boys, this number is not yet known. According to a recent report by ECPAT Mexico and partners, children in the Yucatán region are exploited through prostitution and production of online child sexual abuse material – and it is often tourists fueling this crime.
The forum was a political success, with tourist businesses, the Mexican local and state governments committing to the protection of children. The governor of the State of Quintana Roo, Carlos Manuel Joaquin González, signed a collaboration agreement that will see ECPAT train more children in schools to raise awareness about the issue. The agreement will also see the state government working with private businesses to encourage them to become members of the Code and to introduce child protection policies. The Municipality of Benito Juarez also presented a renewed Pact for Children, specifically including measures to prevent and combat the sexual exploitation of children.
The forum also saw the booking and travel company TUI Mexico and 11 RIU hotels, elevate their commitment to protecting children by signing up to The Code. Staff of TUI Mexico and RIU hotels have recently been trained to recognize and report any suspicious signs of the sexual exploitation of children with training delivered by ECPAT Mexico.