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Protecting children in travel and tourism

How has ECPAT been working to address child sexual exploitation in the travel and tourism industry?

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The sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism has taken on many forms over the years.

During 2020-2021, widespread shutdowns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic led to criminals adapting by shifting online. In 2022, as the travel and tourism industry rebounds from the impacts of the pandemic, children in destination countries are again at risk of sexual exploitation and abuse. 

To adequately address the sexual exploitation of children during this recovery phase, ECPAT International’s priorities for action included: evidence-based awareness raising, capacity-building resources for travel and tourism professionals, and proactive engagement with the private sector and government bodies. With travel restrictions easing and more countries opening up for international visitors, engagement with the general public through awareness-building campaigns was also a key focus area. 

Here’s how ECPAT has been working to address child sexual exploitation in the travel and tourism sector this past year:

Don’t Look Away campaign

As international and domestic travel started to pick up in the middle of 2021, ECPAT partnered with In Hope to launch the Don’t Look Away initiative.

The campaign highlights the importance of protecting children by learning how to spot the signs of child sexual exploitation and how to report suspected cases.

Whether you’re on a holiday or travelling for business, we all have a responsibility to protect children.

Click here to learn more.

Destination Mekong Summit 2021

At the second annual Destination Mekong Summit, participants gathered to showcase regional sustainable travel businesses and to discuss strategies for tourism recovery in Mekong countries.

ECPAT’s Head of Programme: Child Protection in Travel and Tourism, Gabriela Kühn, presented at a session on child protection organised by the Expert Group on Child Protection.

Blog post: How voluntourism may facilitate the sexual exploitation of children

While voluntourism is a valuable way to contribute to society, that offers benefits to both the community and the volunteer, packaged and unsupervised voluntourism trips and visits have been shown to have a range of harmful consequences on children’s development and can increase the risk of child sexual exploitation.

The solution—some forms of voluntourism must be regulated in order to keep children safe.

Click here to read the article.

World Travel & Tourism Council Global Summit 2022

In April, travel and tourism industry leaders gathered with key government representatives at the World Travel & Tourism Global Summit to support the sector’s recovery after the COVID-19 outbreak and move beyond to a safer, more resilient, and sustainable future.

In attendance was ECPAT’s Executive Director, Guillaume Landry, who stressed the importance of regulating voluntourism to enhance child protection.

GARA Action Protocol Model for Tour Guides

The tourism sector plays a fundamental role in the prevention of sexual exploitation of children and Tour Guides can be key allies. However, Tour Guides and those involved in the day-to-day operations need to be equipped with the necessary tools and understanding of how they can play their part.

The Regional Action Group of the Americas for the prevention of sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism (GARA) created a tool to strengthen the capacities of Tour Guides to protect children. It provides Tour Guides with actionable guidelines for preventing, identifying, and reporting suspected situations of sexual exploitation, and/or child labour in the different spaces where they carry out their activities— including in the remote areas and local communities. 

Click here to find out more.

The Code

The Code (short for “The Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism”) is a multi-stakeholder initiative launched with the mission to provide business and organisations within the tourism sector with the critical knowledge and tools needed to prevent the sexual exploitation of children. 

In the past year, we’re pleased to welcome on board 25 new member companies from 12 different countries! 

We believe that our members should be adequately equipped with the tools and knowledge needed to protect children from sexual exploitation. In mid 2021, we launched new Code e-learnings, offering all member companies access to online training modules for 10 different employee profiles in 10 languages. 

Learn more about The Code’s work this past year:

Tourism for inclusive growth with child protection in focus
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Vietnamese students stand up to protect children
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The Code annual events: Asia and Latin America
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Event: Preventing the sexual exploitation of girls, children and adolescents in tourist accommodations
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Want to find out more about the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism?


Read our summary paper on the issue

Learn more about travellers’ attitudes towards child protection

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