Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

7 Tips To Be An Ethical and Responsible Traveller

Spending months on the road with just a backpack and no fixed itinerary has become a rite of passage for Australia’s youth. Travellers seeking both adventure and affordability will often flock to countries like Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam for their vacation.

These popular tourism destinations offer a thriving local culture, ancient temples, exotic scents and tastes, and beautiful views. One thing travellers may not be expecting, is that this may be the first time they come face-to-face with child poverty.

Your natural instinct will be to help the child, whether that’s making a donation to a local orphanage, volunteering, or sharing their loose change with street kids. Tourists may not know that “…these are behaviours which can keep children in poverty or even in abusive situations,” says James Sutherland, from the ChildSafe Movement.

We know that you and other travellers have the best of intentions. James adds: “During a visit to a developing country, it is not unusual to see children at risk.” So here’s a list of seven useful tips to help you react ethically and responsibly to such situations on your travels.

Around 10 million Australians travelled overseas in 2016, with those aged 25-29 travelling the most of any age group.

Tip 1: Children are not tourist attractions

Children living or studying in schools, orphanages or slums shouldn’t be exposed to tourist visits. These places are not zoos. Imagine a bus full of foreigners visiting schools in your home country. Would you find this acceptable?

The best way tourists can travel ethically is to put child protection first and simply not visit these places. Instead you could book a tour with a local, family owned company, which will give back to the local community.

Tip 2: Tourists can help children ethically

Working with children in institutions such as orphanages is a job for local experts, not for travellers who are just passing through. Children deserve more than good intentions: they deserve experienced and skilled caretakers and teachers who know the local culture and language.

Travel ethically and make sure your volunteering is a great experience and that has the best impact possible. D Responsible tourists do not work directly with children. Instead, share your professional skills with local staff. You can also explore other ways to put your talents to use.

Tip 3: Don’t participate in the cycle of child poverty

When you give money, food or gifts to begging children, you encourage them to continue begging, which prevents them from going to school and locks them into a cycle of poverty.

There are better, more responsible ways tourists can to support children and youth: use businesses with a social impact, such as training restaurants and shops, or donate to organisations supporting children and their families.

Tip 4: Travellers should call the professionals if a child needs help

When you see a child in need, the best thing to do is to contact local professionals. Helping children directly can cause problems because you don’t know the local culture and laws. For instance, never take a child back to your hotel room – it’s dangerous for both you and the child.

If you’re travelling and you see a child being exploited, there’s a few things you should do to act responsibly:

You won’t bother anyone – it is their job to check and help. Your responsibility as an ethical traveller is just to call. You could save their life and give them a first chance to build their future.

Tip 5: Be responsible and report child sex tourism

Sex tourism involving children is a crime and a devastating reality. It happens in hotels, in bars, and other tourist spots you might not expect etc. You may also be offered to have sex with children.

When you see such a situation, don’t put yourself at risk. Call a child protection hotline, contact a local organisation or call the police so immediate action can be taken to protect the child and investigate the situation.

Tip 6: Report child labour

Some children, in countries like Myanmar or Cambodia, sell goods at tourist sites or offer their services as tour guides. Others are hired in tourism businesses like hotels or restaurants, and this is a problem when it hurts their education and development.

Travellers should not buy goods or use services offered by children. If you think that a business employs underage children and prevents them from going to school, the responsible thing to do is call a child protection hotline, contact a local organisation or call the police. They will check the child’s situation – many children are just helping out their parents after school, but some may be exploited.

Tip 7: Be respectful and ethical when taking photos

It’s natural for tourists to want to document their adventure and the people they meet. A big part of ethical and responsible travel is mindfulness before you get out your camera.

Keep in mind that taking photographs may be culturally inappropriate in certain circumstances in the country you’re visiting. Where children are involved, take the time to get consent with a parent or guardian in the first instance. Good manners will always go a long way no matter which part of the world you find yourself in.

Be child safe and travel responsibly

Travelling ethically and responsibly isn’t difficult. All you need to remember is that as a tourist, it is not your job to directly intervene in the situations we’ve described. Responsible tourism is about doing your part to alert the right authorities about child labour, abuse and other forms of exploitation.

If you would like to help children in need, find out more about sponsoring a child with us here. You can also donate to where it’s most needed, which will fund our high priority projects in the countries where we work.

To learn more about ChildSafe, and organisation raising awareness about ethical tourism, visit their site. Also try to use ChildSafe certified businesses while on your travels. This will help you avoid being involved in situations where children are being exploited.

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