Child safe travelling and tourism

The tourism industry is booming. Traveling to distant countries is cheaper and easier than ever before. The world has grown smaller and we can now visit places that would have been unthinkable just one generation ago. Many tourists are seeking “authenticity” and combining sun and beach holidays with a “good deed,” such as visiting and volunteering in orphanages.

In many of the relatively new tourist destinations for Swedes – Thailand, Cambodia and Nepal – poverty is widespread, the rule of law is not upheld, and the people are traumatized after long periods of conflict or war. Children generally have lower status in these societies. Many live in extreme poverty, and on the street or in orphanages. A power balance occurs when relatively wealthy travelers meet people in poor countries, and this increases the risk of child sexual exploitation.

How Childhood works to increase the protection of children in travel and tourism:

Childhood supports many projects in Asia that provide direct support to children at risk. These include outreach programs and drop in-centers for children and families living on the street, support for needy families, short-term accommodation for girls who are victims of sexual abuse and therapy for survivors of trafficking. These projects reduce the risk of child abuse by foreigners.

Childhood is also a part of the Child Safe Movement, which works to raise the awareness of travelers about child sex tourism. Through training of child safe agents in the communities (street vendors, taxi and tuk-tuk drivers, hotels and restaurants) a safety net for children in vulnerable situations is developed. Children and child safe agents have access to 50 hotlines where they can access professional advice and support. Children and families are provided with alternatives to a life on the street which reduces risks for children. 7 900 people are trained and certified child safe agents and 100 000 children are estimated to have benefitted from increased protection through the network in 2016. ChildSafe also highlights the problems associated with orphanages as a business model and the risks this entails for the children – mainly because they are separated from their families unnecessarily, but also because visitors and volunteers without any background checks have easier access to vulnerable children.

In 2014, in partnership with the Swedish Police, the County Administrative Board and the National Method Support Team Against Prostitution and Human Trafficking, we launched the Resekurage initiative, an advocacy campaign aimed at encouraging traveling Swedes to report any sexual exploitation of children directly to the Swedish Police. 2,5 million people have been exposed to the campaign and it has resulted in an increased awareness about the crime and how to report.

The Tourism program, run by Childhood Brazil, mobilizes the hospitality sector to examine and take responsibility of its areas of operation. The overall strategy of the program is to engage with hotel chains and strategic partners to increase awareness about child sexual abuse and exploitation and train workers to recognize and take actions if they witness violence against children. Atlantica Hotels is the largest independent multi-brand hotel manager in South America. In 2005, the company partnered with Childhood Brazil in a pioneering eff ort to prevent and combat the sexual exploitation of children in Brazil’s hotel sector. A decade later, Childhood Brazil celebrates the achievements of this partnership that has aligned the managerial and operational procedures of its hotels with the principles of sustainable tourism and the protection of children. One of the partnership’s first projects was the implementation of the Atlantica Hotels Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation, which was followed by a series of training courses for professionals involved in hotel management operations, all of which was conducted in tandem with Childhood Brazil. Atlantica Hotels has also played a key role in spreading information about child sexual abuse and exploitation to its many stakeholders — guests, shareholders, suppliers and competitors — through effective engagement and communication strategies. Today, 25 million guests have received information about child sexual abuse and exploitation.