WTM World Responsible Tourism Day delegates last year heard from Michael Horton about how the internal trafficking of children was being stimulated by the tourism industry facilitating and encouraging visits by tourists to orphanages. The scale of donations coming from tourists to orphanages in Siem Reap was such that children were being ‘purchased’ from their parents to fill the orphanages; enabling unscrupulous owners to harvest significant sums of money from tourists. In 2012 we widened our focus looking at the child abuse issues which arise in outbound families and what operators are doing to tackle the problems as well as fake orphanages and trafficking.
Travel Weekly has now taken up the issue and produced a two page special report by Melanie Hall on how the trade can tackle the abuse of children. Well trained and vigilant staff at the London Jumeirah Carlton Hotel in 2010 played a key role in the apprehension and successful prosecution of a gang trafficking girls as young as 13. Richard Martin the Metropolitan Police detective chief superintendent in charge of the case said “It’s thanks to the diligence of hotel staff that this ruthless gang was caught.”
Travel trade staff are well placed to spot possible child abuse and trafficking and to alert police, they need to be encouraged to do so, trained and supported by management. The problem is growing in the UK too. This is not just an overseas issue. Back in August 2012 two men were jailed for trafficking two Latvian women into the UK to be sexually exploited. It was suspicious staff at the Premier Inn in Ripley who alerted police who raided the hotel two days later and began making arrests.
In September 2010 a gang of four men were caught on CCTV cameras at the Lancaster Hotel in Bayswater, west London, trafficking girls. The Leeds-based charity Coalition for the Removal of Pimping (now known as Parents against Child Sexual Exploitation or PACE) reported back in 2009 they had helped more than 400 families which have been affected by sexual exploitation in the last five years
ABTA has run an Every Child, Everywhere campaign with ECPAT UK. Nikki White of ABTA is reported in Travel Weekly as having said that the objective of the campaign is to ensure that all staff have enough guidance and support in place so that “they don’t turn a blind eye if they see anything that concerns them”. If they see a child with bruises, and bruising becomes more extensive, staff should have the confidence to intervene.
Travel industry staff are also well placed to tackle opportunist child sex abuse. The industry may unwittingly facilitate abuse, providing transport or accommodation for abusers. To avoid this danger, businesses need to provide training for their staff in what to look out for, what the signs are and what to do if they are suspicious. And the businesses need to provide support for staff faced with the challenge of not turning a blind eye, it is everyone’s responsibility not to turn a blind eye.
To do any less is culpably irresponsible.
This year at World Responsible Tourism Day there will be a debate: on ‘Taking Responsibility for Child Protection“, taking place on Tuesday 5th November at WTM. The Chairperson is Mark Tazner, Chief Executive, ABTA with the panel as follows:
1. Stephanie Ossenbach, Project Manager Corporate Responsibility, Kuoni
2. Bharti Patel, Chief Executive Officer, ECPAT UK
3. Amanda Read & Karen Tatom, UK Border Force
4. Krissy Roe, ResponsibleTravel.com
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