TTW – What made you think in this line of tourism? What factors lead you to take this really responsible against sexual exploitation?
Ms. Sakulpitakphon : We took action to combat sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism because it is a crime that makes use of the industry and its services in order to facilitate it; resulting in irresponsible and unsustainable tourism. Children should not be victim to such crimes and tourism professionals are in an unique position to combat sexual exploitation of children.
TTW – How far tourism worldwide is safe now than years before?
Ms. Sakulpitakphon : Contrary to popular belief, the sexual exploitation of children linked to the travel and tourism industry does not only occur in certain destinations, but can be found in all regions of the world. Of course there are tourist destinations where children have a higher risk to being sexually exploited and many people think of ‘developing countries’ but this crime is also occurring in the United States of America for example.
TTW: What were the main problems that the travellers had to undergo and how did you come to know about the same?
Ms. Sakulpitakphon : Travelers and tourists see many things and for the most part, they want to do the right thing or be given the knowledge about what to do. We get many requests from our member companies and from travelers themselves asking for advice on what to do [how to travel in a way that minimizing negative impact on children, especially child sex tourism and how to report if they think a child is endangered].
TTW: Which part of the world has been prone to the sexual exploitation meted out to the children most? What steps have you taken?
Ms. Sakulpitakphon : As noted earlier, this problem is a global one. It is just that the crimes occur on different scales depending on the context. Factors that increase the risk for children [anyone under the age of 18 years] to being sexually exploited linked to the travel and tourism industry are:
– Lack of laws or weak ones that do not criminalize the sexual exploitation of children, or if the laws are not enforced;
– Poverty, abusive family or other pressures forces children into high-risk situations: running away from home, seeking work, become street children etc.;
– Places where the ‘demand’ to have sexual activity with children is not addressed or criminalized but socially tolerated or accepted;
– Other factors: financial gains, corruption and ‘consumerism’ all contribute to this crime
TTW: How has the government helped you in this noble cause?
Ms. Sakulpitakphon : This varies by government. For example, The Code is currently receiving funding from the Swiss and German government so they support our organisation etc. Other governments, such as the United States of America or Australia, focus on law enforcement response. Then other governments take action through their Ministry of Tourism to help promote The Code as a responsible tourism standard, for example the Costa Rica Ministry of Tourism etc.
TTW: How your stake holders helped you in achieving your aim?
Ms. Sakulpitakphon : The Code itself is actually a multi-stakeholder organisation. Half our our board of directors are representatives from the tourism industry, the other half is from various non-profit organisations. We also work with UNWTO and UNICEF and a large number of other stakeholders at international, regional and national level.
TTW: How has the tourism companies set up their system accordingly to make tourism more safe?
Ms. Sakulpitakphon : The Code believes that tourism companies can implement child protection as part of their business operations through the implementation of our six criteria.
TTW: Can you give us an insight into your six criteria that you follow to prevent sexual exploitation of children?
Ms. Sakulpitakphon : The six criteria are practical actions that any tourism company can do. These simple actions are great preventative steps that are not overly complicated and they were designed with input from the tourism industry from the very beginning.
TTW: How have digital media and other new media has come up in making tourism safe for children and travellers?
Ms. Sakulpitakphon : The media has played a role in getting the word out about this issue and there is a sense of awareness about the crime. Although the understanding remains weak, it’s a step in the right direction. We hope to use the media to strengthen the industry’s understanding and how they can take action against it.
TTW: What are the Corporate Social Responsibilities that each of the tourism agencies should maintain safety travelling?
Ms. Sakulpitakphon : As part of a company’s CSR or responsible/sustainable tourism initiative, it would be great if they can consider integrating The Code into it. It focuses on child protection and preventing sexual exploitation of children but in principle it can also be applied to other related topic, such as safety.