B2B Blog

Child Protection in Tourism

For several years, Buffalo Tours has been working in close cooperation with Friends International to help improve the standards of child protection in the tourism industry. In 2015, 38 tour guides in Thailand were trained as active ChildSafe Agents to help promote child safety and to protect children in their local communities. Last week, delegates from Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand met in Bangkok to undergo child protection certification that will allow them to train Buffalo Tours staff in the ChildSafe guidelines. Together with Friends International, we hope to raise awareness about the many dilemmas facing child protection in tourism and explore how we can work together to improve conditions for vulnerable children across Asia.

What is the ChildSafe Movement?

Friends International was founded in 1994 on the streets of Phnom Penh and has been dedicated to improving the lives of disadvantaged children in the aftermath of the Cambodian genocide. Friends International launched the ChildSafe Movement in 2005 to increase awareness and promote child protection guidelines through behaviour change campaigns and child protection training. The movement has since spread to 13 countries in Asia, Africa and Central America.

Why is child protection important in tourism?

While tourism can provide a vehicle for economic growth and positive societal change, it can also have an adverse effect on local communities if not developed in a responsible way. Some of the major issues contributing to the endangerment of children in tourism is the rise in child labour, orphanage tourism, volunteer tourism, begging and the sexual exploitation of children. The protection of children should be the highest priority of all responsible travel policies and there are several ways in which travellers and travel professionals can help to prevent child endangerment.

Buffalo Tours Operations Manager for Thailand, Mrs. Porjai Chaiwongyart, receiving a medal for her many years of support for the ChildSafe Movement.

What is orphanage tourism?

Many travellers are not aware of the major problems facing child protection in Asian tourism. One of the biggest dilemmas is the proliferation of orphanages that support themselves through “donations” from tourists and volunteers who visit the orphanage. This practice is not only unsustainable, but also harmful to the children. These orphanages usually do very little to protect the children's rights to privacy and stability, often providing child performances as entertainment to visitors in exchange for a donation. There is also a serious concern that children are removed from their families in order to perpetuate these orphanages as an industry.

What is volunteer tourism?

Another major issue is “voluntourism” where well-meaning volunteers teach English and other subjects to young children, often paying for the privilege. Little thought is put into whether or not these volunteers are qualified to work with children, especially those in difficult circumstances or with special needs. Even more alarming is that these schemes are usually not regulated and thereby put the children at risk. Similar to orphanage tours, these programs have led to a rise in an industry based on the exploitation of vulnerable children for monetary gain

Why shouldn’t we give money to begging children?

As a well-meaning traveller it is very tempting to give money or to buy souvenirs from children living in poverty, but usually we will be doing them a disservice. Children begging in the streets or selling trinkets to foreigners are exposed to danger and exploitation, perpetuated by the generosity of tourists. This form of child labour infringes on the fundamental rights of children to education and safety.

ChildSafe awareness campaigns include:

"Children Are Not Tourist Attractions", "Don't Create More Orphans" & "Keeping Families Together"

How can we contribute to child protection as a DMC?

In collaboration with Friends International and the ChildSafe Movement, Buffalo Tours has been training staff as ChildSafe Agents to ensure that they are better equipped to promote child protection in their destinations. Tour guides and drivers are especially well-suited to working with child protective agencies and organizations, since they can function as eyes and ears in local communities. ChildSafe training also provides the skills and knowledge needed to advise visitors on responsible interaction with children while travelling, as well as providing responsible alternatives to customers who wish to contribute to local communities.

Buffalo Tours does not participate in orphanage tourism or volunteer tourism. Rather than giving money to children who beg or sell souvenirs, we encourage travellers to make a donation to reliable and accredited organizations who can contribute to sustainable and community-based development. Through our work with the ChildSafe Movement, we are able advise travellers on general guidelines that help protect children. At Buffalo Tours, we firmly believe that it is our responsibility to do everything we can to develop sound policies for the benefit of local communities and especially the protection of their most vulnerable members. This is what our customers expect and what the children deserve.

For more information on the ChildSafe Movement, campaigns and guidelines, visit their website here. You can also learn more about Buffalo Tours community-based development projects on our blog.

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