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.
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