Public Opinion is Clear: Urgent Legislation Required to Protect Children from Sexual Exploitation! Read the story


World Tourism Day – 27 September 2021

This year, to celebrate the World Tourism Day, the UNWTO invites its Member States, as well as non-members, UN agencies, businesses and individuals to celebrate tourism’s unique ability to ensure that nobody is left behind as the world begins to open up again and look to the future 

In 2020, an additional 32 million people were pushed into extreme poverty.[1] The current crisis dramatically increases the vulnerability of children, particularly in countries that have traditionally relied on the income generated from travel and tourism.  

Poverty forces families to make difficult decisions regarding their survival.  Children are often at the receiving end of these difficult decisions and face life altering consequences such as being withdrawn from school to enter the world of work, forced into child marriage, or sent away, in the hope of attaining better lives. The reality is that these decisions only serve to increase their vulnerability to trafficking and sexual exploitation.  

As COVID-19 related restrictions ease and travel becomes more possible, child sex offenders that have increasingly sought online engagement are likely to seek offline contact to directly abuse and exploit children. INTERPOL recommends close monitoring of travel for registered child sex offenders when travel restrictions are relaxed to protect victims overseas.[2] Although no country, business, or destination is immune to sexual exploitation of children, offenders – both foreign and domestic alike – tend to target countries with more lenient legal and policy frameworks, and where families and children are more vulnerable to economic, social, and cultural factors.  

This World Tourism Day, ECPAT International with the Down to Zero Alliance[3] are urging governments and business to ensure that no child is left behind now, and during the post-COVID-19 recovery of travel and tourism 

“Poverty forces families to make difficult decisions regarding their survival. “

We are calling for:  

  • Governments must improve legal and policy frameworks, including through establishing appropriate extraterritoriality and extradition provisions for all offences of sexual exploitation of children occurring in offline and online environment.  
    • Consult the Global Progress Indicator map to see if your country has provisions that allow for effective extraterritorial prosecution for child sexual exploitation; 
    • Address the gender dimension of sexual exploitation of children by making laws, policies and services inclusive of boys and children with diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression – for example in Thailand, ECPAT’s research reveals an urgent need to adjust support services to fit also boy survivors’ needs.
  • Businesses must protect children to develop responsible and sustainable practices:  
    • Consult the Global Progress Indicator map to see if your country established obligatory government-regulated child protection standards for the travel and tourism industry;   
    • Commit to ending the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism by implementing the six criteria of The Code.
  • Businesses and governments must ensure that only responsible and safe forms of voluntourism are undertaken with and for children:   
    • Consult the Global Progress Indicator map to see if your country has legislation that requires that criminal background is checked for every national or non-national applying for work with or for children or who is currently working with or for children, including staff, consultants and volunteers;  
    • Implement The Code’s Voluntourism Policy and exclude visits to orphanages from tourism packages as it drives institutionalisation which causes harm to children. 

Watch the webinar organised by ECPAT USA to mark World Tourism Day with the representatives of ECPAT International, Mariott International, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York field office and with a special video message from Dr. Najat Maalla M’Jid Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children  
World Tourism Day 2021 provides an opportunity for governments and business, in cooperation with civil society organisations worldwide, to enhance tourism’s role in inclusive growth with child protection in focus. 

  1. United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, UNCTAD.  

  2. INTERPOL. (2020). Threats and Trends: Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse: COVID-19 Impact. 

  3. The Down to Zero Alliance includes Terre des Hommes Netherlands, Defence for Children-ECPAT, ECPAT International, Free a Girl, ICCO and Plan International Netherlands. The Down to Zero – Building Back Better Programme (2021-2022) is funded by the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs.