Children’s rights never go on holiday
The future belongs to children – they deserve special protection around the world
The well-being of children is an issue that is close to the heart of DER Touristik. The company requires itself as well as its partners, suppliers and service providers to safeguard the rights of children in tourism. It is a principle that applies to children who live in countries where its customers go on holidays and to children who go along on these trips as well. The DER Touristik Group has drawn up a comprehensive internal child-safeguarding policy based on its Policy Statement on Child Safeguarding. The foundation of this policy is a risk analysis of the company’s value chain conducted in 2022, which identified activities that pose potential risks to the protection of children’s rights. For this reason, the child safeguarding policy places strict requirements on tourism products and activities. It also includes measures and processes that facilitate the active implementation of these requirements.
Learn about ways that children can be affected by tourist activities, the steps that the DER Touristik Group has taken to protect children’s rights and the actions you can take to help us. Let us work together on responsible tourism to make a positive contribution to children worldwide.
Acting responsibly – treating children with respect
Buying gifts and child begging
Children sell souvenirs and services or beg for money in many destinations. Well-intentioned tourists will frequently buy something from children or give them money. But what they do not understand is that their generosity is helping to preserve a vicious cycle of inadequate education and poverty. Children are frequently members of organised gangs, exploited for monetary reasons and prevented from attending school. Gifts given to children can also result in tourists being viewed as superior and generally trustworthy.
For these reasons, travellers should not give gifts or money directly to children. Instead, they can make donations to reputable organisations that provide long-term support to children. DER Touristik Foundation also fosters the education of children and adolescents in less developed tourist destinations. Social enterprises, projects or organisations that integrate local communities into value creation in tourism, promote education and thus the opportunity to lead independent lives.
Special care must be taken when photographing people, especially children. Photographers should keep the dignity and culture of individuals in mind when they take pictures. No photos should be taken without permission. This rule also applies to children, who are less able to speak up for themselves and require the protection of responsible adults.
If a person says that he or she does not want to be photographed, this request must be respected. In cases of doubt, no photos should be taken. Holiday photos showing children that are posted online in social media breach the right of individuals to their own image.
Seek professional help
Should a child be exposed to the risk of sexual exploitation, child labour or any other dubious circumstance, action must be taken immediately, and civil courage exhibited. Travellers face a challenge at such times because they lack an understanding of legal regulations and cultural differences. The best option is to seek professional assistance.
Travellers have a number of options they can use in such situations:
- Contact the local trained tour guide
- Speak with hotel staff and management
- Consult with the human rights and child safeguarding officer of DER Touristik
- Talk to local organisations of the child safeguarding association ECPAT
- Use the reporting platform https://dontlookaway.report/
- Go to local authorities or the police
Even if they only suspect that something is amiss, travellers should not hesitate to act. Targeted action can prevent major suffering.
Setting limits – schools and orphanages are not tourist attractions
Some schools and orphanages open their doors to tourists, who generally visit with good intentions. But these visits can have serious consequences. UNICEF estimates that up to 8 million children live in orphanages around the world, and the organisation Save the Children reports that 80% of them may not be orphans at all because they have at least one living parent. Human trafficking and the promise of a better life result in children being placed in such institutions. This concept is designed to generate donations and has become a fully-fledged industry in some places. Demand by tourists maintains it. Abuse and constantly changing caregivers (including tourists) affect children and rob them of the prospect of leading independent lives. Criminality, drug addiction and sexual exploitation are widespread.
Schools should also be protected places of learning where teaching should not be disrupted by travellers. Income generation should not be given a higher priority than teaching. For these reasons, schools and orphanages are being progressively dropped from the travel programmes offered by DER Touristik and its partners and replaced by activities that address the needs of child safeguarding.
The one exception to this policy is educational programmes that provide job training in tourism, are associated with restaurants, accommodation or services and require interaction with guests as part of the curriculum. The privacy of trainees should always be respected, and visits never include sleeping quarters.
Respecting privacy – home stays and projects at eye level
Overnight stays with host families and visits to projects provide a unique opportunity to get to know the way of life and challenges in holiday destinations. They enable the host communities to participate in tourism and generate revenue. DER Touristik supports home stays for the purpose of supporting families and encourages visits to selected projects in order to give young people access to training.
If children are involved in home stays or projects, as a vulnerable group they require active protection from adults. Their privacy must be respected. They need a place to which they can withdraw and spend time with their parents. Photographing children requires sensitivity and should be done only after receiving permission from the children themselves and their parent or legal guardian. Special attention must be paid to ensure that interaction is appropriate for both the culture and age. All parties involved in such interaction must act as equals. DER Touristik has developed strict child safeguarding requirements for its partners and helps them to put these requirements into practice.
DER Touristik does not offer any type of volunteering or voluntourism as part of project visits. If you are interested in such opportunities, please consult the Voluntourism Policy (https://thecode.org/voluntourism/) drawn up by The Code and review the providers who have signed up.
Don’t look away – report suspected cases of sexually exploited children
One focal point of DER Touristik’s child safeguarding efforts is the prevention of sexual exploitation of children in tourism. DER Touristik is a member of numerous initiatives, including the working group on child safeguarding overseen by the German Travel Association.
In 2016, Sören Hartmann, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of DER Touristik Group, signed The Code, a set of rules designed to safeguard children from sexual exploitation. This code is based on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that has protected children’s rights since 1989, including the right to freedom, the right to education and the right to protection from violence. The Code contains six criteria that are being actively and systematically implemented. ECPAT Deutschland e. V. (Working Group for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation is serving as DER Touristik’s expert partner in this effort.
DER Touristik is actively implementing the six criteria contained in The Code:
- Policies and measures designed to prevent the sexual exploitation of children
- Employee training about child safeguarding
- Contractually stipulated zero-tolerance policies regarding the sexual exploitation of children
- Provision of information to travellers about child safeguarding and the options for reporting suspicious activity
- Collaboration with stakeholders in the battle against the sexual exploitation of children
- Annual reports about the implementation of The Code
The international platform where suspicious activities can be reported is https://ecpat.org/.
You will find additional information at child-safeguarding organisations like The Code and ECPAT.
Protecting children’s rights – carefully selecting activities
Children can play a prominent role in tourism, not only where they are the main focal point like high-risk visits to schools and orphanages, but also in many other contexts. They may play a part in cultural presentations, performances, dances and shows. Such activities may blur the line between sharing cultural heritage and commercially exploiting children. It is not easy to distinguish between young people’s right to work and the safeguarding of children from exploitation in the form of child labour. International and national laws and the core labour standards norms of the International Labour Organisation are non-negotiable standards that must be observed. Every form of child labour in the products of DER Touristik and its partners is prohibited.
For this reason, DER Touristik is implementing a code of conduct for suppliers. This code includes a commitment to the agreement on the minimum age of the International Labour Organisation. Employees and partners are sensitised and trained in this regard. Furthermore, we foster active stakeholder dialogue regarding the development of industry solutions to protect the rights of children.