Today is World Tourism Day, a day to celebrate all the good things that tourism brings, but it is also a day to think about the dark side of this industry. Every day, children are sexually exploited by travelers and tourists, which is why it’s important that you know how to spot the potential signs of this crime the next time you’re on holiday. Today, many perpetrators are business people, foreigners who live abroad, and even volunteers. They leave right and wrong at home, and take advantage of the anonymity and legal loopholes that a new city or country offers.
What to look out for:
- A child acting fearful, disoriented, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Showing signs of physical abuse.
- Dressed inappropriately for their age.
- Being offered money or gifts by adults.
- Staying out late.
- Staying in a hotel room which is visited by adults.
- Being treated in a demeaning or aggressive manner.
Technology is being misused for sexually exploiting children
The theme of World Tourism Day 2018 is “tourism and the digital transformation.” Technology has changed the way we research, book and pay for travel, transforming how we connect and inform ourselves, how we remember and celebrate our journeys, altering our behaviour, and encouraging innovation. Digital technology, combined with budget airlines has increased travel options for millions. But it has also made it easier for traveling child sex offenders, helping them to groom children, film child sexual abuse images, and share them online.
International tourist arrivals nearly tripled in the last quarter century
The number of international tourist arrivals has nearly tripled in the last quarter century and the travel industry contributes more than US$7.6 trillion to the world economy every year. Many less developed countries that were once considered “remote” have now opened up to international visitors. In many places the dynamic is changing. Today, the number of regional and national tourists is outpacing international arrivals.
While tourism is soaring, child protection laws and measures are lagging behind in many countries. Although there is no typical victim, offender or offence, expanding access to the Internet, mobile technology as well as cheap travel are providing more opportunities to offend. In places like hotels, tourist attractions, restaurants, bars, massage parlours and even on the street in plain view, children are often at risk from traveling child sex offenders, who may take advantage of poverty, social exclusion and vulnerability to abuse and exploit.
Offenders use travel services to get access to, and exploit children
This World Tourism Day let’s remember that the huge number of international and regional tourists and travelers includes those who seek to harm children. Offenders use services provided by the travel and tourism industry, such as flights, hotels, tour guides and transport, to get access to, and sexually exploit children. So it is this industry that has a key role in containing this problem – in partnership with law enforcement, governments, communities and NGOs. A great example, is The Code, which supports companies and trains staff in the travel sector to recognize and report signs of child sexual exploitation. There are currently 313 members worldwide, building zero tolerance environments.
Let’s also remember, it’s not your responsibility to investigate, it’s your responsibility to report. Don’t be afraid to do it, it could save a child from a situation of ongoing sexual exploitation and abuse.