AWTE Support in its Fights Against Child Sex Tourism

The UK is spearheading a global campaign to crush sexual exploitation of children via the travel industry.

Chairing a forum at World Travel Market - the keynote travel trade event at Earls Court in London - Cynthia Messer, of the Tourism Centre, University of Minnesota, and academic advisor to the Task Force to Protect Children from Sexual Exploitation in Tourism, represented the IFWTO (International Federation of Women's Travel Organisations). She called on Tour Operators and Travel Agents to join the struggle to stamp out child sexual exploitation in tourism by including a clause in holiday brochures and putting a sticker on every travel agents window endorsing the campaign.

Many travellers are unaware of the fact that in more than 30 countries, including the UK, they can be prosecuted on return home for sexual offences with minors in other countries. The travel industry is doing what it can to warn travellers of the consequences of their actions while abroad and tour operators are threatening hotels in some countries that their contracts will not be renewed if there is evidence that child sex abuse is taking place on their premises.

The IFWTO and the AWTE - London (Association of Women Travel Executives) along with ECPAT (End Child Prostitution and Trafficking) have global campaigns to stamp out child sexual exploitation in tourism. The forum, hosted by the AWTE, also had representatives from the London and Italian offices of ECPAT. Sean O'Neill of the Daily Telegraph also joined the forum: his recent article about how key figures in the Internet paedophile ring called the Wonderland Club are escaping justice has contributed considerably to raising the profile in the UK of this sordid side of the tourism industry.

The UK industry is starting to take notice of the problem: Thomson Holidays is already working with ECPAT to train its staff to look for signs of sexual exploitation of children, and some European airlines are showing on-board film clips urging travellers to report any suspected incidents. Other ECPAT groups also produces ticket inserts, which highlight the problem and offer advice and ways for responsible travellers to report suspected transgressions - anonymously if preferred.

AWTE has produced a pack of information and baggage tags for consumers that they hope will be distributed through travel agencies throughout the UK.

"This is just the beginning," says Cynthia Messer, "It is a global problem and can be happening in one's own street, unbeknown to us. Countries such as Thailand are actively working with the tourism industry to protect their children from sexual abuse by prosecuting offenders. A number of convictions have been made. The tourism industry is not the cause of this problem, but working together we can be a part of the solution."

Carron Somerset, speaking on behalf of ECPAT, pointed out that known sex offenders in the UK must register before they leave the country for more than a week. And hopefully, as a result of ECPAT lobbying, from next year any Britons convicted overseas for sexual offences, will be required to register in the UK when returning to Britain.

IFWTO, a world-wide federation of independent women's travel organizations, was formed in 1969.  The Federation's administrative world headquarters are in Torremolinos, Spain.