Much as travel brings nothing but good things to the most of us, it’s also got its shady underside that few of us are really aware of. Sex tourism happens all over the world, in almost every country, and research suggests up to 2 million children have been involved in this billion-dollar illegal industry. One international group has set out to eliminate this kind of exploitation and they’re recruiting the travel industry to help them achieve their goal.
EPCAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes) has developed a thing they call The Code. They’re calling on travel companies and organizations — like hotels, tour operators, transportation providers, professional associations and more — to pledge their commitment to doing what they can to eliminate child sex tourism. So far, more than a thousand companies and organizations have signed on, though only three of those are from Canada. However, many multinational companies that Canadians will be familiar with have signed on.
As a result, companies who adopt this code of conduct agree to develop their own ethical policies around sex tourism, train staff to identify signs of sex tourism (i.e. young girls checking in alone or with no luggage), inform the public and suppliers of their position on the matter and how to report suspicious behaviour, and to report back to EPCAT annually.
You can help by supporting the companies who have made a commitment to the cause, or by encouraging your favourite travel companies to sign on. Here are just a few of the organizations that have signed The Code:
Hilton has almost 4,000 hotels in 91 countries, which include the Hilton brand, DoubleTree, Waldorf Astoria, Hampton Inn, Embassy Suites and Homewood Suites.
Delta Air is a U.S.-based airline that flies to 340 destinations, including Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Halifax and Charlottetown.
Wyndham is a hotel group that operates mainly in North America. They operate Wyndham hotels as well as budget hotel chains like Days Inn, Howard Johnson, Knight’s Inn, Ramada, Super 8 and Travelodge.
Sabre, the parent company to Travelocity, has signed The Code. The CEO of Sabre said they would “look at adding useful information about human trafficking to a traveler’s e-ticket receipt for example, so they can be better prepared to identify and report potential trafficking incidents.”
Carlson runs Carlson Wagonlit travel agencies but they also own the Radisson hotel chain, Country Inns & Suites, Park Inn, Park Plaza and TGIFridays for a total of 1,300 hotels and 900 restaurants worldwide. Carlson was the first American company to sign on to The Code.
Thomas Cook is a global travel agency with online and offline operations. Their Canadian branch is one of the only three Canadian organizations that have signed The Code.
Barcelo is a Spanish hotel chain with a lot of properties in hotspots for Canadian getaways, including Mexico and Costa Rica. The parent company has signed the code, and some of their individual hotels have signed it themselves as well.
Also based in Spain, Iberostar also has four and five-star resorts around the world, including tropical locales like Mexico, Cuba and Jamaica. The company published their own children’s book, Book of Dreams, in three languages to show their support.
Accor owns a bunch of hotel chains including Novotel, Sofitel and Ibis and since 2002 they’ve trained thousands of employees to identify and handle potential sex tourism risks.
The Association of Canadian Travel Agencies is one of the three Canadian organizations that have signed the code. They oversee 2,000 member agencies representing 14,000 travel professionals and gives them materials to spread the word about sex tourism.