How can the travel trade tackle child abuse?

child trafficking debate at WRTD 2012

WTM World Responsible Tourism Day delegates last year heard from Michael Horton about how the internal trafficking of children was being stimulated by the tourism industry facilitating and encouraging visits by tourists to orphanages. The scale of donations coming from tourists to orphanages in Siem Reap was such that children were being  ‘purchased’ from their parents to fill the orphanages; enabling unscrupulous owners to harvest significant sums of money from tourists. In 2012 we widened our focus looking at the child abuse issues which arise in outbound families and what operators are doing to tackle the problems as well as fake orphanages and trafficking.

Travel Weekly has now taken up the issue and produced a two page special report by Melanie Hall on how the trade can tackle the abuse of children. Well trained and vigilant staff at the London Jumeirah Carlton Hotel in 2010 played a key role in the apprehension and successful prosecution of a gang trafficking girls as young as 13. Richard Martin the Metropolitan Police detective chief superintendent in charge of the case said “It’s thanks to the diligence of hotel staff that this ruthless gang was caught.”

Travel trade staff are well placed to spot possible child abuse and trafficking and to alert police, they need to be encouraged to do so, trained and supported by management. The problem is growing in the UK too. This is not just an overseas issue. Back in August 2012 two men were jailed for trafficking two Latvian women into the UK to be sexually exploited. It was suspicious staff at the Premier Inn in Ripley who alerted police who raided the hotel two days later and began making arrests.

In September 2010 a gang of four men were caught on CCTV cameras at the Lancaster Hotel in Bayswater, west London, trafficking girls. The Leeds-based charity Coalition for the Removal of Pimping (now known as Parents against Child Sexual Exploitation or PACE) reported back in 2009 they had helped more than 400 families which have been affected by sexual exploitation in the last five years

ABTA has run an Every Child, Everywhere campaign with ECPAT UK. Nikki White of ABTA is reported in Travel Weekly as having said that the objective of the campaign is to ensure that all staff have enough guidance and support in place so that “they don’t turn a blind eye if they see anything that concerns them”. If they see a child with bruises, and bruising becomes more extensive, staff should have the confidence to intervene.

The code combats child sex tourism
The Code is the recognized Code of Conduct for the protection of children from sexual exploitation within the travel and tourism sector.

Travel industry staff are also well placed to tackle opportunist child sex abuse. The industry may unwittingly facilitate abuse, providing transport or accommodation for abusers. To avoid this danger, businesses need to provide training for their staff in what to look out for, what the signs are and what to do if they are suspicious. And the businesses need to provide support for staff faced with the challenge of not turning a blind eye, it is everyone’s responsibility not to turn a blind eye.

To do any less is culpably irresponsible.


This year at World Responsible Tourism Day there will be a debate: on ‘Taking Responsibility for Child Protection“, taking place on Tuesday 5th November at WTM. The  Chairperson is Mark Tazner, Chief Executive, ABTA with the panel as follows:

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,

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. Anonymous says:

    A good post. Trafficking takes different forms. In India for example the wonderful Esther Benjamins Trust rescued trafficked children who had been kidnapped to be enslaved in Indian circuses from Nepal. A horrible trade which has been hugely diminished by that excellent charity. I have not myself witnessed child abuse and exploitation by foreigners in India but was aware of bad things having gone on for sometime in Srilanka. Everyone in the travel and hospitality trade has to stand up and be counted about this vile side of life.

  2. Frans de Man says:

    The Travel Weekly report misses a few important points.
    The Tourism Child Protection Code is not run by ECPAT, but, although initiated and supported by this NGO, has been an industry driven/led mechanism since 2006, with its own office in Bangkok.
    The article also lacks attention for the years of hard work by different stakeholders in many destinations to support this Code and develop trainings and monitoring systems for it.
    Having evaluated these projects in different countries I think that any panel on this issue without a representative of these destinations, will miss out on the core concern (and weakness) of these measures: implementation.
    Frans de Man
    Retour Foundation

  3. Frans your point about the Code is well made. I took the opportunity presented by the Travel Weekly piece to do the blog.

    The child protection issue was raised by Michael Horton at WTM during the panel on Progress in Responsible Tourism on World Responsible Tourism Day in 2011. Michael spoke powerfully about the issues around orphanages in Cambodia – you can read what he had to say or list at

    In 2012 the panel looked at what the industry is doing to address the issues – there is a video of the panel

    This year the panel is on Tuesday 5th November
    Taking Responsibility for Child Protection
    13:30 – 14:30 South Gallery SG 21+22
    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 Tanzer, Chief Executive, ABTA

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

    And in the World Responsible Tourism Awards to be announced on 6th November there is a child protection category this year for the first time

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