ECPAT Research Paper

As the world responds to COVID-19, push factors that facilitate or lead to sexual abuse and exploitation of children have intensified. All partners need to address the rapidly changing situation and its devastating effects on children, families and entire communities, to ensure that child protection remains central to the current and future responses, including for the Travel & Tourism sector’s sustainable and responsible recovery.

The international response to the COVID-19 pandemic had also a massive impact on the Travel & Tourism industry itself, that is first restarting with domestic travel, and will increasingly use technology along with its new products. It is crucial to capitalize on the progress to fight sexual exploitation of children that has been made in recent years by adequately addressing sexual exploitation of children in the context of travel and tourism, along with its online elements during the recovery of the travel and tourism industry.

ECPAT Summary Paper on Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism outlines the latest developments and key challenges in the fight against sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism following priority areas for work in this context:

  • Strong and sustainable evidence-based awareness raising
  • Comprehensive and sustainable prevention through proactive engagement of the private sector and other actors
  • Robust legal frameworks and effective law enforcement
  • Access to child and gender sensitive justice, protection, comprehensive care, and full recovery

Sexual exploitation of children in the context of travel and tourism include the exploitation of children in prostitution, the sale and trafficking of children for sexual purposes, online child sexual exploitation and some forms of child, early and forced marriages. None of these contexts or manifestations are isolated, and any discussion of one must be a discussion of sexual exploitation of children altogether .

Sexual exploitation of children in the context of travel and tourism is sometimes commonly referred to as ‘child sex tourism’; however, this terminology fails to name the criminal nature of child sexual exploitation, and instead implies that these crimes are some form of ‘tourism’. Sexual exploitation of children in the context of travel and tourism is not another form of tourism but is a crime – and should be named as such. Offenders who abuse and exploit children are not ‘sex tourists’ – they are criminals.