Tourism puts children at particular risk of sexual exploitation. According to estimations by the children's charity UNICEF, each year, around two million girls and boys around the world are sexually exploited in early childhood. In addition, a global study on the sexual exploitation of children in tourism published by ECPAT International – a group that works to prevent the sexual exploitation of children – shows that more children than ever before are affected by sexual exploitation. The increasing number of travellers, the Internet and mobile technologies have fuelled the increase in sexual violence against children in tourism. For this reason, the travel industry has a special responsibility to help to protect children.
The topic of opportunities for children and adolescents is an area of action of the pillar Social Commitment within the Sustainability Strategy of the REWE Group. With its activities in this area of action, the REWE Group is aiming, amongst other things, to ensure the protection of children.
The REWE Group is also working to systematically fight against child labour. In addition to living wages and income as well as women in the supply chain, this topic is a focus area in its Guideline on Fairness. In addition, in its Guideline on the Prevention of Child Labour, the REWE Group has defined requirements and measures with regard to the prevention and elimination of child labour and is involved in numerous projects. The company also relies on internationally recognised certification standards to fight against child labour at the raw material production stage (for more information, see Child Labour and Forced Labour).
GRI 413: local communities
DER Touristik employs a very ambitious child protection policy. In 2012, it defined a set of principles that are designed to protect the children of the holiday country and those of guests and to observe their rights within the tourism industry. The focus here is preventing the sexual exploitation of children in tourism.
On 11 March 2016, Sören Hartmann, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of DER Touristik Group, signed “The Code”, a code of conduct that is designed to prevent children from being sexually exploited, during the ITB tourism trade fair in Berlin. This code is based on the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. ECPAT Deutschland e. V. oversees its implementation and supports DER Touristik as an expert partner. With its signature, DER Touristik expressed its commitment to the code and pledged to observe the following aspects, which have already been actively and fully introduced:
- Implementation of guidelines and measures to prevent the sexual exploitation of children
- Provision of employee training about the rights of children, the prevention of sexual exploitation and the reporting of suspected cases
- Acceptance of a clause in hotel agreements rejecting the sexual exploitation of children and refusing to tolerate it in any way
- Provision of information to travellers about the rights of children, the prevention of sexual exploitation, and ways of actively participating in the protection of children through the reporting of suspected cases
- Support of and cooperation with stakeholders in the fight against sexual exploitation of children
- An annual report about the implementation of “The Code”
The child protection policy of DER Touristik is communicated clearly at all destinations. It is also a core topic within a training concept. This raises awareness of the topic amongst hotel employees and travel directors in the destinations as well as employees at headquarters locations, destination agencies and important partners. It is also explained how to deal with suspected cases.
In 2021, a digital format in the form of interactive webinars was used for live training sessions for the first time. In addition, refresher courses were run as part of general training measures in various hotels which had already undergone extensive training. Employees also took part in DER Touristik online training sessions run by ECPAT. In 2021, a total of 62 people (2020: 0 due to corona; 2019: 102) received training on this topic. The comparatively low number can again be attributed to the corona pandemic – the regular training sessions only started again at the end of the financial year.
As part of its information and prevention concept, DER Touristik gets involved through additional awareness-raising measures. For example, travellers are actively informed about the protection of children from sexual exploitation during holidays. The focus here is the reporting platform “nicht-wegsehen.net”, which is operated by ECPAT Deutschland and can be used by holidaymakers to report real and suspected cases of criminal activity.
In addition, DER Touristik is involved in the preparation of regular destination workshops organised by the German Travel Association and ECPAT. The participants are various stakeholders of on-site service providers, with whom DER Touristik also cooperates in child protection bodies at multilateral level. During the workshops, they are taught about the sexual exploitation of children in tourism, sensitised about the topic accordingly, and trained on what to do if they suspect that something is amiss and how to prevent that situation from arising. Most recently, two workshops took place in Indonesia in 2018. The workshops scheduled for 2020 and 2021 had to be cancelled due to the corona pandemic. It is planned for these to resume in 2022.
Operations with significant actual and potential negative impacts on local communities
In 2021, DER Touristik conducted a risk analysis to find out how the rights of children are affected by various activities within the tourism value chain and at its partners. Firstly, it showed that relevant risks in these value chains can be easily identified. Secondary, it was deduced that products and activities related to community-based tourism as well as visits to social projects require a specification of the previous regulations. To this end, measures and requirements are to be formulated in order to complement existing strategies for child protection in a way that goes beyond the prevention of sexual exploitation and to convert them into a broader approach. This is intended to minimise the various risks associated with tourism activities and maximise the benefit to communities through participation in tourism value creation.
There are also plans to supplement DER Touristik's child protection policy with a comprehensive guideline. Based on the child protection principles of DER Touristik, the guideline is intended to specify requirements for different activities and expand the target groups. Furthermore, it is to provide comprehensive information for internal and external stakeholders and bring about change through projects, campaigns and industry dialogue. The reduction of risks and the strengthening of the rights of children and families are at the fore here. The expansion of the strategy for child protection is also related to the Covid-19 pandemic and the thereby increased vulnerability of children around the world.