The South African tourism sector has grown significantly in the past 15 years and is now well on the way to achieving its goal of becoming one of the top 20 destinations in the world by 2020 (NTSS, 2011). In 2012, over 20 million people travelled in South Africa – including over nine million international visitors and 12.5 million domestic travelers (Statistics South Africa, 2011). This significant volume of travel movement brings substantial benefits to South Africa; however, the intersection between children and tourism presents critical risks that must be managed effectively to ensure the safety of children.
While tourism is not responsible for crimes against children, there is a clear connection between the tourism industry and the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) around the world. South Africa is not immune. All manifestations of CSEC are occurring in South Africa: child prostitution, child sex trafficking, child pornography and child sex tourism. Tourism infrastructure can often play an inadvertent or intentional role in these crimes against children. It is used as both the mechanism for gaining access to children and the venues in which sex crimes are perpetrated. Offenders use all form of tourism services, including accommodation, transport, entertainment, travel agency and tour services to facilitate these deplorable sexual crimes against children. While the magnitude is unclear, international experiences have demonstrated that the risks of CSEC escalate as tourism continues to grow.
Protecting children should be a tourism imperative. As tourism continues to grow, the risks to children deepen. It is necessary to understand how CSEC occurs in the tourism sector in order to effectively combat these crimes against children. Equipping tourism professionals with awareness of CSEC is the first step. But awareness is not enough. The tourism industry is ideally placed to mobilise efforts to protect children, and the global experience demonstrates that small to large scale tourism businesses can take useful actions to prevent their industry from being used for the perpetration of sexual crimes against children. It is now essential that suitable reporting tools are provided to enable tourism stakeholders to act quickly when they suspect children are at risk of exploitation.
The Child Protection Code (The Code) is an international industry-driven initiative with a mission to provide awareness, tools and support to the tourism industry to prevent the sexual exploitation of children. The goal of the Child Protection Code is to work with travel and tourism companies to combat child sex crimes in the sector. As part of this mission, the Child Protection Code employs six criteria which members of the tourism industry must adhere to once they join The Code (requiring actions relating to child protection policy, training, awareness-raising and reporting).
As the Local Code Representative for South Africa, Fair Trade Tourism (FTT) supports tourism industry stakeholders who would like to become members of The Code with the application process which includes completing an online application for, compiling an Action Plan for incorporation in day-to-day operations, and establishing an internal training programme. Any tourism businesses or organisations can join The Code in a few simple steps.