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Child protection is a key challenge for the tourism industry

Child protection was raised at WTM in 2011 when Michael Horton of ConCERT in Cambodia raised the issue of tourism’s role in fuelling the orphanage industry in Siem Reap. By bringing travellers and tourists to Siem Reap the industry has inadvertently played a significant role in creating demand for orphanages from visitors and volunteers who want to make a difference. Orphanage owners have seized the opportunity; children have become an asset, ‘orphan’ children are  used to secure payments from tourists who want to make a difference. 72% of the children in Cambodian orphanages are reported not to be orphans, tourists have unwittingly encouraged child trafficking resulting in children being removed from their parents and being subject to abuse, not least from paedophiles.

In 2012 there was a panel on Child Protection, we heard about the Code and Julie Naylor of Thomas Cook talked about the challenges which tour operators face in ensuring the safety of children within outbound family groups as well as in the destination. Issues of child abuse in travel and tourism affect both children travelling abroad and in the destination. Child protection is a broad agenda encompassing trafficking, sexual abuse, ill treatment, neglect and child labour.

This year on the panel we heard from the UK Border Agency about their work in child protection, watching out for child trafficking at the borders, from Bharti Patel of ECPAT about the range and scale of the problem, from Stephanie Ossenbach about what Kuoni are doing to address the issue and Krissy Roe, of responsibletravel.com, explained why they have reviewed all the orphanage tours offered through their website and removed all those which are not compliant with their best practice guidelines.  The video of the child protection panel is available online, take a look.

In the World Responsible Tourism  Awards announced at WTM on World Responsible Tourism  Day the judges recognised the efforts of Intrepid Travel, Friends International and TUI Nederland in working to protect children. TUI Nederland were overall winners this year because of the scale of their achievement in child protection, an area of Responsible Tourism which many businesses are reluctant to address. The judges were impressed by TUI Nederland’s willingness to raise this sensitive issue with their clients and Dutch travellers in general, in order to urge them to take action and to report their suspicions when abroad. The judges felt that TUI Nederland’s overall holistic approach was highly replicable and they expressed the hope that others will emulate the company’s leadership.

The travel industry needs to consider what it can do to counter child abuse, the industry is not accused of causing child abuse but it can inadvertently facilitate it. Only by educating those who work in the industry about the issue, how to recognise it and what to do if suspicions are aroused, can the industry exercise the responsibility expected of it. TUI Nederlands went further and successfully enlisted the support of travellers and holidaymakers in addressing the issue. Will others follow?

If you want to keep up with the discussions about child protection and the industry join the campaign Facebook page

There have been a series of blogs about Child Protection on the WTM WRTD website

Take a look at what Sallie Grayson of peopleandplaces has written on the issue

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