Meeting the many challenges of child protection for tourism

child protection and tourism at WTM London

Many of the issues we discuss in responsible tourism are focussed on minimising and avoiding the negative impacts of tourism and maximising the positive impacts. Child protection is different and in some ways more complicated. We have been addressing the issue on panels at WTM Responsible Tourism events in London, Sao Paulo and Cape Town over the last three years. On November 5th 2014 at World Responsible Tourism Day this year we shall be debating this issue at the widest level yet.

The issue of child protection is multifaceted.  Paedophilia is what everyone thinks of when we talk about child protection and travel, and while it is a big, important issue it is only part of the challenge for the industry. We also need to consider the welfare of children travelling abroad with their families or alone; issues of child labour which arise around the industry and may include the children of families who offer accommodation in the formal or informal sectors; the safety of young people gap-yearing abroad; and child beggars who are often organised and exploited by unscrupulous Fagins, sometimes lurking behind the seemingly benign front of orphanages, which can also be used to organise child trafficking and paedophilia.

On November 5th we’ll be addressing at all these issues, and debating the motion: “This House believes that the tourism industry could do a good deal more to take responsibility for child protection and urges it to do so”. We’ll take a vote at the beginning and end of the session to see whether the discussion has changed any minds.

We are going to be discussing what the outbound industry can do to take responsibility for children neglected by the pool or abused by their parents whilst away from home. We’ll ask what advice should the industry give about child beggars and how to respond to them in the street. And we’ll question whether or not tourists should be visiting orphanages.

TUI’s Elise Allart receiving the award for overall winner at the World Responsible fromTourism Awards 2013.

And we will be addressing paedophilia, which the industry sometimes unwittingly facilitates. We’ll be asking Elise Allart of TUI Benelux about the campaign she headed working with the Dutch Border Police to encourage travellers to look out for and report child trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children.

It is a broad agenda for the travel and tourism industry and a particularly important one. You can follow some of the latest news on child protection and tourism on line at this dedicated Facebook page for Child Protection and Tourism

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.


  1. Very glad to see that child protection is to be discussed at the forthcoming conference. It may be of note that I gave a paper on curbing child sex tourism at the 3rd International Travelers’ Philanthropy Conference, Costa Rica, in 2011.

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