Protecting children from sexual
exploitation in travel and tourism

UNICEF – the United Nations Children’s Fund – estimates that every year around two million girls and boys worldwide are sexually exploited from an early age, with serious and long lasting effects on body and soul. The trend continues to rise.

The steadily growing number of travellers, globalisation and rapid technological development have increased the number of sexual acts of violence against children in tourism. The Internet, mobile technologies and apps make it easier to get in touch. Offenders deliberately use anonymity of the internet and in the destinations to commit their crimes. New forms of sexual exploitation are emerging.


But how do you recognize signs of sexual exploitation in tourism?

Here are a few examples

  • Adults take photos of foreign children at the pool or beach – in tight swimwear or naked.
  • Adults approach and touch minors on the beach and possibly promise them expensive gifts.
  • Adults touch children and adolescents indecently in restaurants, on the beach, on boats …

Where children are sexually abused?

This does not only happen in emerging and developing countries. Children are also sexually abused in Germany and Europe. Sexual exploitation is nurtured from poverty, corrupt authorities, inadequate legislation and insufficient prosecution.

Cases of abuse can occur in all hotel categories: from luxury hotels, where discretion is a top priority, to backyard guesthouses, where no personal data are requested and cash is paid. But also in private accommodations, where some guests are integrated into family life and have direct contact with the host’s children.

Who are the victims?

Girls and boys are affected. They often belong to minorities or indigenous groups. They often live in poverty and/or on the street, face family problems, have to work etc.

Who are the offenders?

There is no clear profile of the offenders. They come from all ages and educational backgrounds, are backpackers, individual or package travellers as well as business travellers. Offenders are mostly men, but also woman sexually abuse children! Often they are occasional offenders who did not plan the abuse before the trip.

Child abuse is a crime – worldwide!

Crimes committed by German citizens abroad can be prosecuted in Germany! (§5 No. 8 StGB).

What can each individual do?


EVERY traveller can become active. Anyone who observes any suspicious situation – whether suspicious or criminal – should not hesitate to report it:

  • via
  • to the hotel staff and management or the tour guide on site
  • to your Embassy or consulate in a given country
  • to the local authorities on site


Important information to share:

WHAT exactly did you observe?
WHEN and WHERE did the incident occur?
WHO were the persons involved (description/possibly photo of suspect(s), victim, 
other witnesses)?

Further important information:

– Description of intermediaries

– relevant messages (SMS, WhatsApp, Messenger etc.)
– noted registration numbers of cars or taxis


German Travel Association
Heike Jödicke-Birnbaum
Manager Destination Matters and Child Protection

Schicklerstrasse 5 – 7, D-10179 Berlin, Germany

T:   +49 (0)30 28406-55