Making it Safe for Local Children in Tourist Environments

Homestay with the Isanborei Community in Sambor Prei Kuk - CambodiaTravelers in Asia often get confronted with children begging, selling souvenirs or offering guiding services at tourist locations. The background often has to do with poverty and the possibility for a family to earn money. Often these little sales people are successful. It’s hard to resist these heart-melting kids! But of course, the children should be at school, or playing, or in the evening, sleeping safely at home.

This issue invariably shows up in places where tourism intersects with people marginalized from formal employment in the travel industry.  Most of the revenues are going to airlines, accommodations and, yes, travel companies. And that’s where the jobs are. Government organizations, private companies and NGOs should work together to give people viable employment and make them part of the economic boom that tourism brings.

Change is happening. An increasing number of travelers now demand more than being cocooned. They no longer accept hopping off a bus with just enough time to snap some photos and buy in overpriced tourist shops. They now demand more meaningful insights into local culture by being part of it. They want to give back. This has nothing to do with budget. We see this new demand among well-heeled jet-setters, penny-saving backpackers and everyone in between.

Travel industry entrepreneurs are now beginning to understand this. NGOs and governmental organizations are now helping communities by creating travel experiences that include local communities in their revenue models.

Khiri Reach, our charity, worked together in a Private-Public Partnership with German GTZ to create the Isanborei community based tourism project in a remote village in Cambodia. It is in a wonderful forest setting among temple ruins pre-dating Angkor. We still have a long way to go to make sure children there do not sell krama (the ubiquitous Cambodian scarfs) and souvenirs directly to visitors. The aim is to provide them with an alternative community-run shop that provides funds for community development. It’s a good start.

Child Protection Seminar at Aloft Hotel, Sukhumvit Soi 11, Bangkok, Thailand 23-7-2013

Keeping children off the street and in a safe family and community environment also helps to keep them out of sex-offenders hands.

Khiri Travel recently joined together with the Project Childhood Prevention Pillar to provide an information leaflet for visitors. Each one gives six simple action points that can make a big difference. These are great practical steps.

Project Childhood’s eye-opening training sessions are highly recommended for the hotel and travel industry. It was a great honor to have been a guest speaker on one of their sessions for the industry in Bangkok earlier this year.

With coordination and commitment, the travel industry can achieve a lot for marginalized local communities. The action points are a great start.

Photo 2 by Matt Burns

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