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Travel, tourism and modern slavery

20 March 2019

How your business could be supporting modern slavery

If your business is in any way connected to the travel and tourism industry, you need to read this article. Your reputation could be at risk.

Tourism might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word ‘slavery’, but there are significant links between the two and if your business has anything to do with the travel industry, it’s important you know they exist. 

Modern slavery is less often about people literally owning other people, and more about people being exploited and controlled, with no way of getting out. One example of where modern slavery and travel collide is orphanage tourism

Australian tourists who volunteer in orphanages overseas are unwittingly contributing to the exploitation of children. Orphanage tourism is creating a demand for ‘orphans’, and ‘orphanages’, where children are often deliberately kept in poor conditions to elicit sympathy from well-meaning visitors.  To put it bluntly, orphanages are tantamount to child labour.

Right now, there are about 8 million children in orphanages around the world – but approximately 80% of them are not orphans at all. They have parents or family who could care for them given the right support – and they should be with them, because growing up in an orphanage, even in the best-run facility, damages a child’s emotional and physical wellbeing and the effects can last a lifetime.

Orphanage tourism is just one example, but if your company is connected to the travel industry in any way, there’s a chance that somewhere in your business, you are contributing to the problem of modern slavery. And if that’s happening, it’s important to know – and deal with it. We need companies like yours to come out and say no, this is not OK. 

Why it affects your business

You might be the tour company who books the trip. The airline that makes the journey. The hotel that puts the tourists up. The guidebook that suggested the trip in the first place. You might have local partners who are flouting the rules. You might have problems in your supply chain.

Your company is in a unique position. Your actions can either support or fight against modern slavery. Which do you want it to be?

At the very least, you need to make sure your business practices – and those of your partners – are not causing harm to children. But you can also go beyond that and be part of the solution. 

Talk to our experts

Together, we can make sure tourism has a positive impact on children. We have a global team of child protection experts who are here to help. We will:

  • help you identify whether your business is contributing to the problem of orphanage tourism – and other forms of modern slavery – through your supply chains, partnerships and policies.  

  • mitigate the risk to your business by working with you to develop and implement a Child Protection and Child Safeguarding Framework.

  • invite you to events that will help build knowledge of child protection issues within your business, and give you tangible actions to take forward. 

  • work with you to find initiatives that allow you to help, not harm, children in developing countries. This could include supporting programs that strengthen families and communities to reduce the risk of child exploitation, or programs that help reunite children with their parents or caregivers. 

These actions will not only protect your business, and reduce the risk of reputational damage, but they will also help protect kids around the world and make sure they’re given a fairer start in life.  

Contact us for more information or for further reading, Save the Children Australia’s Principal Advisor for Child Protection and member of Rethink Orphanages Karen Flanagan, has co-authored Modern Slavery and Orphanage Tourism. This book, the first of its kind, examines the links between modern slavery practices and orphanage tourism with all proceeds of the sales going to Save the Children Australia and Forget Me Not Australia. To order your copy please click here and apply the following discount code to receive 20% off at the checkout CCSC20.

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