Intensifying efforts to combat sexual exploitation of children in the tourism industry

Development partnership with the private sector supports The Code in a pilot project in Thailand

Tourism plays a significant role in driving economic growth in developing countries. However, an increasing number of tourists influences the sex tourism business. Although the travel sector is not directly responsible for the sexual abuse of children in the tourist trade, the tourism industry has a key role to play in combating the sexual exploitation of minors. It is important to raise awareness of this issue, one which few venture to address.

The Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism (The Code) is the tourism industry‘s largest initiative to date aimed at combating sexual abuse of children in the tourist trade. The Code was established by the global children‘s rights organization ECPAT in cooperation with the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and a number of Scandinavian tour operators in 1997. The initiative seeks to encourage companies to sign The Code, committing them to implementing and reporting on its six criteria.

While the initiative had over 1,000 signatories in 2012, just 11 of these were in Thailand, where a highly sophisticated infrastructure for sex tourism raises the pressure to tackle this problem. Furthermore, a closer cooperation with the tourism industry is required in order to test and improve the instruments, enabling the enormous potential of the initiative to be leveraged.

The six criteria of The Code

  1. To establish a policy and procedures against sexual exploitation of children.
  2. To train employees in children’s rights, the prevention of sexual exploitation and how to report suspected cases.
  3. To include a clause in contracts throughout the value chain stating a common repudiation and zero tolerance policy of sexual exploitation of children.
  4. To provide information to travellers on children’s rights, the prevention of sexual exploitation of children and how to report suspected cases.
  5. To support, collaborate and engage stakeholders in the prevention of sexual exploitation of children.
  6. To report annually on their implementation of Code related activities.

Our approach

Working on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH partners with The Code initiative and four of the world‘s most influential actors in the international tourism industry: Kuoni (Switzerland‘s largest tour operator), TUI Travel (Europe‘s largest travel company), Accor (Europe‘s second largest hotel firm) and ITB (the world‘s largest travel trade show – see below its campaign stickers, which were placed in every bathroom at ITB Berlin 2013).

This pilot project has been set up to test and optimise The Code‘s new online instruments to improve the implementation of The Code in Thailand and ensure that Thai signatories properly implement and report on The Code.

The Code is responsible for implementing the pilot project particularly, while the private sector is involved in testing, modifying and optimising the new instruments, all with the aim of improving implementation of the six criteria and facilitating annual reporting.

As well as publishing reports, the private partners also work to promote more widespread use of the system within the tourist trade. They are also involved in supporting the local Code representatives in Thailand by helping to develop new training material aimed at getting new signatories on board.

What we do

The project is steered by GIZ, Kuoni and The Code. The primary responsibility of GIZ is resource and budget planning and to specify areas of responsibility, goals and schedules. GIZ provides The Code with technical and financial support aimed at helping it to achieve the project objective and strengthening cooperation between civil society and the private sector. The project is funded by BMZ as part of the develoPPP. de programme, which links entrepreneurial activities with development policy goals. Companies interested in making sustainable investments in developing and emerging countries can apply for the programme.

Expected results

The Code initiative has been set up with the aim of seeing the tourist industry implement The Code on a harmonised basis and report on progress in order to combat the sexual abuse of children within the tourism industry in the long term. The pilot project in Thailand is working to ensure that most, if not all, signatories in Thailand submit reports using the new system and utilise the new e-learning system to train their staff and raise their awareness of the issues.

Financial incentives for companies will be created to sign The Code. Signatory companies will have access to technical support and expertise relating to children‘s rights, and it is an effective way to point out their social responsibility by clearly speaking out against the sexual abuse of children in the tourism industry. Being a signatory also has benefits in terms of risk management, as it enables them to take direct action in the event of an incident (for example, by terminating a contract or providing more training to staff). In addition, the e-learning system equips employees to respond appropriately to critical situations and provides a more professional monitoring and evaluation system for more transparency and credibility. Establishing The Code in Thailand and internationally should raise greater awareness of the issues in the long term. Building stronger links between the private sector, civil society and local authorities such as the police force also makes it easier to bring criminals to justice. In this way, the project promotes compliance with international standards in the area of human rights and children‘s rights, as well as helping to achieve Millennium Development Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development.