How to be a responsible traveler
Summertime is vacation time. The tourism industry offers amazing experiences but also involves a sinister reality—the sexual exploitation of children.
You’re sipping a soda in a hotel in Acapulco. You’ve left Canada behind to relax in the sun. Life couldn’t be better. A Mexican boy, about 10, enters the bar with a basket of roses for sale. You gently shake your head and he moves off to show his flowers to other tourists. But questions creep into your mind. Why is this boy selling flowers? Who looks out for him when he’s surrounded by strangers? Should the hotel allow this? Is there something you should do?
Summer is often a time when we take trips that we have eagerly anticipated all year. Tourism offers amazing experiences of play, learning and relaxation. But the tourism industry also involves a sinister reality—the sexual exploitation of children. As you prepare for your trip, you might want to consider how you can support child safe tourism.
For many developing countries, tourism is an important way to grow the economy and provide jobs for adults and children. Some jobs that children do are relatively safe, such as selling souvenirs on the streets or working in tourist attractions or hotels; children are able to continue going to school while doing this type of work.
But other work falls into the realm of “3D” jobs: dirty, dangerous, and degrading. These jobs take children out of school and make them vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation. Even “safe” jobs like selling souvenirs and legitimate services to travelers can bring children into risky contact with people who may use them sexually.
Sexual exploitation has long-lasting and devastating consequences for children. It harms their bodies, minds, and spirits, causing pain, fear and despair. Children can end up with unwanted pregnancies, HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases, or become addicted to drugs. They are often rejected by their families or stigmatized in their communities.
As tourists we can protect children by demanding that tour operators, hotels and restaurants don’t turn a blind eye when children are at risk. By knowing the laws and how to report suspected abuse overseas, Canadians can help, just as they would if they suspected the sexual abuse of a child here at home.
- Find out what you can do to help protect children while traveling.
- Learn about the impact of sexual exploitation by reading Mao’s story.
- Sign the pledge to end child slavery.
- Enter the Fair Trade Photo Contest and win great prizes.