Representatives of the travel and tourism industry are meeting at the UN in Geneva today to discuss the global action needed to end forced labour, human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children within the sector.
Co-organized by ECPAT and the International Tourism Partnership, the United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights, will be the first time the sector has gathered to discuss possible solutions to these shared challenges before a United Nations audience.
More people traveling means an increase of human trafficking and sexual exploitation
The travel and tourism industry has rapidly expanded in recent years, with international tourist arrivals increasing from 528 million in 2005 to 1,323 million in 2017. Many developed countries that were once considered “remote” have now opened up to international visitors. However, this expansion has brought challenges to human rights, with the trafficking and sexual exploitation of children increasing alongside the industry’s expansion. No country is immune to this ever-growing risk. However, the industry is also in a unique position to identify the most vulnerable – and to prevent these breaches of human rights.
“As the reach of global tourism expands, so too do opportunities for those who travel to harm children by sexually exploiting them. The travel and tourism industry has a key role to play in keeping children safe. Together with business leaders, especially from the travel industry, we call upon the private sector and governments to protect children and meet the commitments made to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. No child should be left behind!” – Theo Noten, Programme Manager, ECPAT Netherlands.
Tourism businesses committed to tackle trafficking
At the meeting, experts from non-profit organisations will stand shoulder to shoulder with senior leaders from global travel and tourism companies, such as IATA, the Hilton group and TUI. They will commit to tackling these crimes, which cause misery to millions around the world and in the long-term have a direct impact on the tourism industry. Helen Marano, Executive Vice-President, External Affairs at the World Travel and Tourism Council commented:
“As a global Council which represents all of the segments of the Travel & Tourism sector, we are proud to be leading the path forward for the broader industry’s commitment to the intolerance of all aspects of human trafficking. We will highlight the key efforts being conducted by members of our Council as a way for others to commit, engage and strengthen the ability of Travel and Tourism to tackle this challenge and eradicate child sexual exploitation.”
Helen Taylor, Director of Grant Programs at the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery added:
“GFEMS is committed to ending modern slavery by making it economically unprofitable, and businesses must play a prominent role if we hope to achieve that mission. We’re pleased to see global tourism business leaders joining forces to work towards our shared goal of fighting human trafficking and hope this forum will motivate other companies to get involved in driving solutions forward as well.”
Notable participants at the meeting include:
- Madhu Rajesh, Director, International Tourism Partnership (ITP);
- Theo Noten, Programme Manager, ECPAT Netherlands;
- Mark Ehrlich, Vice President, Global Compliance and Privacy, Hilton;
- Helen Taylor, Director of Grant Programs, Global Fund to End Modern Slavery (GFEMS);
- Jane Ashton, Director of Sustainable Development, TUI Group; and
- Linda Ristagno, External Affairs Manager, IATA;
The event will be chaired by Helen Marano, Executive Vice-President – External Affairs, World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).