Child Protection and tourism – a major challenge

child protection debate at WTM 2012

As part of the Responsible Tourism Programme at World Travel Market last November we organised a panel on Child Protection with panellists talking about the issues which affect the children of holidaymakers and children in destinations – child abuse is an issue in all societies. This year, we will be returning to the issue with an event on Tuesday.

When children are away with their parents or guardians they are more isolated with the accompanying adults than they may be at home and more alcohol may be consumed. The holiday experience can amplify problems between parents and between parents and children. Ask any resort manager or rep and they’ll have examples. TUI and Thomas Cook train their staff to deal with the issues of child protection which arise among families abroad.

anne marie carrie
Anne Marie Carrie, Barnados

The children’s charity Barnardo’s has reported an 84 per cent rise in children trafficked for sex abuse in the UK.  One in four of the victims of sexual abuse it worked with in September 2012 had been trafficked, an increase from one in six in September 2011. Its annual report reveals that 140 of the children it helped in September had been trafficked, up from 76 a year earlier.

Barnardo’s chief executive, Anne Marie Carrie,  said “We are shocked at the rise in the number of children reporting they have been moved around the country by abusers.”  She is calling for more to be done to identify the victims of child sexual exploitation who are being internally trafficked and to intervene to stop the activity.

Barnardo’s aid workers have identified ‘a growing trend’ of victims being taken to hotels with only online check-ins to avoid detection by staff. No one is arguing that the travel and tourism industry causes child abuse but the transport and accommodation facilities which are part of the industry are used by paedophiles.

Unless the industry is vigilant, and trains staff to spot child abuse and intervene effectively, it risks facilitating the sexual exploitation of children and a broad range of child abuse. There needs to be an expectation in the industry that staff will intervene whenever suspicions are raised, and staff need to be trained in what to look for and what to do if they have suspicions.

The sexual exploitation of children is not merely a developing country issue, as Barnardo’s report illustrates the challenge exists in all destinations. There were four times as many travel industry people at the wildlife panel discussion as there were at the one on child protection – that does not reflect well on the industry. The idea that the problem has been successfully tackled and that it is no longer a problem appears to have taken root. Unfortunately this is not the case.

The industry needs to address the issue to avoid playing a significant role in facilitating child abuse. There are strong ethical and reputational risk management reasons to prioritise the issue. It is time to take responsibility.

For more information on the issues Watch this video  and visit the Facebook page on Better Child Protection 


Child Protection at World Responsible Tourism Day 2013

Event – Taking Responsibility for Child Protection

Location: South Gallery SG 21+22 13.30 – 14.30

Description: In 2011 the issue of internal trafficking and orphanage tourism was raised during one of the panels. Last year we looked at the scale of the problem: trafficking, orphanages and the challenges which arise among the families travelling outbound. It is clear that there are still many problems. This year we have four panellists talking about what they are doing to tackle the challenges.
If you have time to browse

Chairperson Mark Tazner, Chief Executuve, ABTA

1. Stephanie Ossenbach, Project Manager Corporate Responsibility, Kuoni
2. Bharti Patel, Chief Executive Officer, ECPAT UK
3. Amanda Read & Karen Tatom, UK Border Force
4. Krissy Roe,

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Harold is WTM’s Responsible Tourism Advisor, he puts together the flagship Responsible Tourism programme at WTM London which attracted 4000 participants in 2020 and the programmes run at WTM Africa, WTM Latin America and Arabian Travel Market. Harold has worked on 4 continents with local communities, their governments and the inbound and outbound tourism industry. He is Managing Director of the Responsible Tourism Partnership and chairs the panels of judges for the World Responsible Tourism Awards and the other Awards in the family, Africa, India and Latin America. Harold works with industry, local communities, governments, and conservationists and undertakes consultancy and evaluations for companies, NGOs, governments, and international organisations. He is also a Director of the Institute of Place Management at Manchester Metropolitan University, where he is an Emeritus Professor, and Founder Director of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism promotes the principles of the Cape Town Declaration which he drafted.

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