Retail & sales

Children's rights

In many destinations, tourists may be approached by children on the streets or be in contact with children when they visit tourist sights. Tourists can have negative impacts on children in various ways.

With the aim of offering their customers special insights into the local day-to-day life and culture in the travel destinations, some tour operators may offer visits to schools, orphanages or slums. Such visits may however have negative impacts on children. Visits to schools may harm children’s educational development and interfere with their school routine. Furthermore, such visits may violate the children’s right to privacy, and the increased contact to strangers makes them more vulnerable to harassment and abuse. Tour operators should therefore refrain from offering such trips and adequately inform their customers on how to deal with children in the destinations they visit.

Children often approach tourists, asking them for money or gifts, trying to sell something or offering to go with them as a guide (for money). Tourists should, however, be aware that children approaching them are generally forced to do so either out of poverty, social exclusion or because they are trapped in a trafficking situation. Moreover, the more money children make by begging or selling, the more it will lead them into a cycle of poverty and dependency. Tour operators should therefore inform their customers about how to react in such situations.

Sexual exploitation of children in tourism is an issue in all world regions and does not stop at national borders. In recent years, sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism (SECTT) and the offenders have become more diverse and are following less easily identifiable patterns. Tour operators should inform their customers on the issue of SECTT and provide information on where to report potential cases.

For more information on children’s rights risks in tourism, see the other risk cards on the issue.  

ECPAT’s study on the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism (SECTT) found an increasing risk of child sexual exploitation all over the globe.

Children are at risk from traveling child sex offenders in most elements of tourism: In places like hotels, airports, tourist attractions, restaurants, bars, massage parlours and even on the streets. Offenders take advantage of poverty, social exclusion and vulnerability of the children.

The report also identified new dynamics and highlights that the lines between destination, transit and source countries are blurred and the profile of offenders is diverse. Traveling child sex offenders can be domestic or regional travellers, as well as tourists, business travellers, volunteers or expats. The crime can be committed by anyone and against any child, although some children are more vulnerable than others.

A brochure for travellers, published by the ChildSafe Movement, containing seven tips and explanations to protect children when travelling.

After her visit to the Dominican Republic, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children urged the government of the Dominican Republic to send a strong signal for child protection and against the sexual exploitation of children. She particularly highlighted the potential negative impacts of increasing tourism on the exploitation of children. According to the Special Rapporteur, perpetrators often get away unpunished while the blame for sexual exploitation is put on the children’s families.

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Take action

Training and capacity building

  • Conduct training with retail staff on SECTT and other issues related to children’s rights.

Communication and reporting

Impact assessment

  • Consult children and their legitimate representatives through an in-depth human rights impact assessment of potential/actual issues related to tourism in their region.

Grievance mechanism

Find more information on potential measures to take on the "take action" site. 

Learn more

Find more information in the Resource Centre.