Global Study finds sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism is increasing and occurring in every part of the world

A two-year Global Study initiated by ECPAT International and financed by the Dutch ministry of Foreign Affairs published today reveals that more children are being sexually exploited than ever before and that this is an endemic phenomenon throughout the world. Dutch National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence against Children Corinne Dettmeijer is member of the High Level Taskforce of the Global Study that guided the study. In her speech today at the launch of the Global Study in Washington, she stresses the responsibility of governments in the fight against sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism (SECTT): ‘This is a responsibility that does not end at national borders.'

The extent of SECTT has increased drastically and its nature has changed dramatically. White, western, wealthy, middle-aged men are no longer the typical offender. Offenders can be foreign or local, young or old; some are pedophiles, but most are not. Local and intra-regional travelers account for most, with many being “situational” offenders, i.e. engaging in child exploitation because of an opportunity and because they feel they will get away with it.

In the last 20 years international tourist arrivals have grown from 527 million to 1.135 billion annually, providing significant financial gain for most of those involved. Even the most remote parts of the planet are now visited. Yet, with this increase in global travel comes greater risk for children. National Rapporteur Corinne Dettmeijer: 'Children are entitled to protection against sexual violence. The responsibility of governments to provide this protection does not end at the border of their country. I am confident the Global Study contributes to every countries’ sense of responsibility in this regard.'

The Study reveals that:

  • There is no typical offender, they are tourists, business travelers, migrant & transient workers, expats or civil society volunteers;
  • Travelling child sex offenders are usually from the region where the offense takes place;
  • The internet and mobile technology have fueled the increase in SECTT by creating new pathways for exploitation and reinforcing anonymity of offenders;
  • Most child sex offenders did not plan the crime, they commit because there is an opportunity and they feel they can get away with it;
  • No child is immune and victims are not only poor. Some are more vulnerable than others, such as the marginalized including minorities, street children, and LGBT;
  • Services for victims remain inadequate;
  • Enforcement and prosecution of offenders is hindered by a lack of coordination and information sharing between authorities; and
  • There are alarmingly low conviction rates for the sexual exploitation of children, which means the majority of offenders evade justice.


The Study creates the largest databank on SECTT and recommendations built on this vast body of information include:

  • Converting the UN World Tourism Organization’s Code of Ethics into an international convention with worldwide ratification;
  • Taking into account the issue of sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism in the implementation, monitoring and reporting on the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals;
  • Creating reporting systems in every country so that children and others may report the incidences without fear of reprisal;
  • Working with online service providers to remedy the growing sale of children for sex via the internet;
  • Building an effective, proactive global system for law enforcement agencies to share information regarding offenders; and
  • Expanding, and where required creating, care and support services for victims.


In 1996 the first World Congress on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children was convened in Stockholm, Sweden. Since then, the way in which children are sexually exploited in travel and tourism has utterly transformed, but our understanding of this transformation has been limited and responses often inadequate. Twenty years later, the new UN Agenda or Sustainable Development presents decision makers across the world and across sectors with a unique opportunity and incentive to accelerate progress and finally end the sexual exploitation of children in our generation.

The Global Study involved 70+ contributors from the public and private sectors. It was guided by a High-Level Taskforce, with members drawn from a wide range of expertise and backgrounds, including governmental, non-governmental and the private sector, including the Dutch National Rapporteur. The Taskforce provided oversight for the Global Study and advice on recommendations to support evidence-based action to combat SECTT. The Global Study was funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands through ECPAT-Defence for Children in the Netherlands and will be launched today in Washington, Bangkok and Cape town.