On 9 March 2015 in London, ECPAT International and the Association of British Travel Agencies (ABTA) organised a consultation with UK travel agencies on the role of the UK tourism industry in ending sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism. The consultation was organised within the framework of the Global Study and its conclusions will feed into the Global Study report. The Chair of the High-Level Taskforce to End Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism, Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid, was in attendance with the Chair of the ECPAT International Board of Trustees, Ms. Carol Bellamy. Civil society, international agencies and academia were represented by ECPAT UK, UNICEF, IBCR and Professor Harold Goodwin. The UK tourism industry was represented by STA Travel, TUI Group, Virgin Holidays, ABTA, International Tourism Partnership, Travelife and The Code.
The meeting started with a short presentation on recent developments to The Code of Conduct by the newly-appointed General Manager of The Code, Marc Joly. Following Mr. Joly’s update, participants discussed the importance of The Code and other similar tools to address the issue of sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism. The discussion, which took place under the Chatham House Rule, was timely to the Code of Conduct’s current review, which addresses the changing travel and tourism environment and includes new insights. The consultation identified varying opinions on the responsibility and liability of the travel industry in the fight against the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism. In addition to adherence to The Code of Conduct, participants from the travel industry identified other possible channels to help end sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism. The travel industry is, in principle, able and willing to lobby governments to better address the issue. A number of its representatives expressed a need for clearer data and graphics on the rate of incidence in their respective countries before being able to do so, however. The travel industry remains committed to ending sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism but requires an impact assessment of industry interventions to help direct future decisions.