The heads of two United Nations bodies, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) have pledged to join efforts to end human trafficking in tourism.
Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), stated that the joint effort and cooperation between the two organizations “conveyed a strong message to the world that we will not be party to activities that exploit women and children."
Mr. Rifai, director of UNWTO, stated that the cooperative efforts were designed to “reiterate the tourism sector’s commitment to combating human trafficking, an unacceptable affront to human rights and dignity, and to set out clear steps for stronger cooperation in fighting one of the most dreadful crimes of our time.”
Such an initiative is seen as crucial as global tourism is expanding, and driving economic growth, job creation, and development. However, there is evidence that the tourism infrastructure is also being used for the exploitation of and trafficking in persons - and children are especially vulnerable.
Victims of trafficking are most often enslaved for sexual purposes, but they might also be found in kitchens or cleaning guesthouses, restaurants, and bars.
Tourism infrastructure can, in turn, create markets for forced and exploitative begging and street hawking.
Codes of conducts for tourism companies have been developed - based on the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism approved by the UN General Assembly in 2001 - and laws enacted that allow for the prosecution in their homeland of tourists who engage in sexual conduct with children.
For example, hotel companies are carrying out awareness campaigns and providing vocational training for trafficked persons.
By enhancing their public image, ethical companies and destinations can ultimately benefit from more business.
“We must raise awareness of human trafficking in the tourism sector. Consumers should be able to make an informed choice about where they choose to spend their money- and crucially, how it will be used,” said Mr. Fedotov.
“It is appalling to see tourism infrastructure being used by traffickers to victimize the vulnerable, yet our sector is firmly committed to reclaim this same infrastructure and use it for awareness raising in the fight against trafficking,” said Mr. Rifai.