No child's play – Respect for children’s rights at tourist destinations (2013)

A closer look at how children’s rights are affected by tourism. The report covers topics such as child labour, volunteering and sexual abuse and outlines how tour operators and travellers can take action.

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What does tourism have to do with children's rights?

When children are negatively affected by the tourism industry, poverty often sits at the heart of the problem. The need for economic stability makes parents and their children extremely vulnerable.

For example, between 13 and 19 million children (under the age of 18) are working in the tourism industry. They are a target for labour exploitation and are often not enrolled in school. Children sell goods to tourists and they beg or are used by adults to attract tourist sympathies – instead of being in the classroom. There are documented cases of children that are working in restaurants or hotels, as street performers, tour guides or in prostitution. In these high-risk situations, children run the risk of contracting hiv/aids and are prone to alcohol and drug use.

Another key development that highlights how tourism can affect children negatively is the growing voluntourism industry – particularly volunteer placements at orphanages. Hence, the report also aims to give recommendations to volunteers and organisations offering such opportunities.

“The tourism industry operates in very complicated regions that face daunting challenges. To tackle these, holistic approaches to children’s rights and cooperation between various actors are needed, in order to ensure that children’s rights are fully respected."

Topics addressed

  • How parents’ working conditions in the tourism industry affect children
  • Child labour in Thailand, Cambodia and South Africa
  • Sexual abuse of children by travelling offenders
  • Volunteering
  • How can the travel industry respect children’s rights?
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