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International Summit: Travel and tourism sector vows to protect children

Posted on Jun 6, 2018

 6 JUNE 2018, Bogotá, Colombia

Representatives of governments, the global tourism business, law enforcement agencies, the UN and civil society are gathering in Bogotá this week to agree on a long-term agenda that will end the sexual exploitation of children through the travel industry.

Livestream the event here.

At the International Summit on Child Protection in Travel and Tourism, hosted by the Government of Colombia, ECPAT, UNICEF, the World Travel & Tourism Council and UNODC, more than 400 participants from 25 countries will sign a declaration pledging to raise awareness about the sexual exploitation of children; tackle child trafficking; adhere to codes of conduct; regulate ‘voluntourism’ in institutions where children are present; and increase the training of staff to recognize when children are in danger of being trafficked or sexually exploited.

“This Summit is an example of the Colombian Government’s commitment to responsible tourism. We strive to prevent exploitation of children in tourism. The principal result of this Summit will be the signing of a declaration from private and public sector, to enforce policy and actions to protect children. Colombia is a country known for many good practices in tourism and has already taken many actions, including for protecting children. Almost all tourism companies in Colombia, approximately 25,000, have joined Government tourism programmes to prevent and respond to the exploitation of children.”
– Sandra Howard Taylor, Vice Minister of Tourism from the Colombian Government

Delegates will agree to a plan, aligned with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to implement the recommendations of the Global Study on the Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism. Many of those at the summit are urging governments, the private sector, law enforcement agencies, UN agencies and civil society organisations to better protect children from trafficking and travelling child sex offenders. This includes, in particular, more coordination between governments and the industry.

Speaking on behalf of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the global authority on the economic and social contribution of travel and tourism, Helen Marano, Executive Vice President, commented,

“Today’s Summit is an important step towards recognising the many companies that are standard bearers in the sector for this critical issue. They serve as an inspiration for all businesses to take on child protection needs in training and everyday operations. The commitments that are to be articulated in the declaration will spur stronger partnerships. WTTC stands behind a robust commitment with the Council’s Members to support meeting the critical need for child protection in all forms across the Travel and Tourism industry. We are proud of the collaborative efforts of the Summit’s participants and encourage industry members to follow suit.”

The travel and tourism sector has grown substantially in recent years. It contributes 10.4 per cent to global GDP and 1 in 10 jobs, with a forecasted 4 per cent average annual growth over the next ten years. The UN World Tourism Organization projects 1.8 billion travellers by 2030.  This growth provides wider and easier access for all travellers and underscores the need for the stronger measures for child protection.

Many countries lack sufficient legislation to stop or deter travelling child sex offenders, who often take advantage of poverty, social exclusion, and weak laws that offer a culture of impunity. In recent years, increasing innovation in the travel and tourism industry has added to the risks. In addition, while the Internet has increased travel options for many, it has also enabled travelling child sex offenders who seek to exploit children.