Small-group adventure operator G Adventures and its non-profit partner Planeterra have joined forces with Friends-International’s ChildSafe Movement to raise awareness of child protection and welfare within the tourism industry, and directly with travellers.
The full new set of guidelines launched by ChildSafe, G Adventures and Planeterra, is called ‘Child Welfare and the Travel Industry: Global Good Practice Guidelines’. A wide range of contributors provided their expertise and insights, including the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), ABTA’s Clare Jenkinson and Harold Goodwin and Sallie Grayson from People and Places, who welcomed the guidelines.
Beth Verhey, Senior Advisor, Children’s Rights and Business, UNICEF, said that these guidelines provide an essential, practical resource for all tourism companies. “Travel and tourism is globally one of the most significant sectors economically, and was highlighted in three of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. To achieve the sustainability potential of the sector, a concerted effort by industry bodies and individual companies is needed to understand how children are affected – both positively and negatively – by their business operations and value chains.”
G Adventures has published a simplified, branded version of these guidelines, which are also being launched to the travel industry, with a global consumer-facing campaign following in November. These Child Welfare Guidelines aim to educate the industry and consumers on how to responsibly interact with children when travelling, including taking pictures respectfully, not disrupting children’s education, and how to give gifts and donations in a manner that doesn’t promote begging.
The Child Welfare Guidelines are the latest in G Adventures’ ‘suite’ of responsible travel guidelines, joining Animal Welfare and Responsible Travel with Indigenous People, which were launched in 2015 and 2017 respectively.
Jamie Sweeting, Vice President of Social Enterprise and Responsible Travel, G Adventures, said that the new guidelines are designed to encourage travel companies to do more, and to educate travellers, who often believe they are doing the right thing when interacting with children, to act responsibly. “As a travel company, we wanted to make sure we were doing the best we could and these guidelines are helping us make appropriate changes internally.
“We have swept all our digital assets and owned channels to ensure all our media complies, and we have removed all school classroom visits from our itineraries. We are next about to embark on an internal training programme with all staff, with the goal of becoming ChildSafe Certified by the end of the year.”
Sebastien Marot, Founder and Executive Director, Friends-International, said that these guidelines are long overdue, and that as the travel industry has evolved to become more experiential, with more community-based tourism, there was a growing awareness of the need for, and the importance of, a framework to protect children. “These guidelines provide that framework, and it is my hope that they will become the benchmark for ensuring effective child protection in the tourism industry, with travel companies, agents, travellers and tour guides all contributing to creating safe environments for children.”