On March 9, 2011, Delta Air Lines was the first major airline in the world to sign the Code of Conduct. A month later, on April 14, Hilton Worldwide Inc., the leading global hospitality company, became the latest hotel company to take a strong stand against the issue by also signing the Code of Conduct. Hilton Worldwide is the fourth U.S. company and one of nearly 1,000 travel industry members worldwide that joined the effort to combat commercial sexual exploitation of children by committing to the Code.
Commercial sexual exploitation of children is a serious, hideous crime occurring every day throughout the world and there is an urgent need for global efforts to eradicate the issue. The Code of Conduct is one of such efforts taken by ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes), an organization dedicated to ending the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
The Code of Conduct, known as the Code, was initiated in 1998 by ECPAT Sweden in cooperation with Scandinavian tour operators and the World Tourism Organization (WTO). The Code aims to prevent sexual exploitation of children at tourism destinations. By joining/signing the Code, tour operators and their umbrella organizations, travel agencies, hotels, airlines, etc. commit to implement the measures defined in the Code. As part of their agreement, all participating companies will implement policies that condemn child trafficking and exploitation and provide training to help employees identify and report illicit activities.
Child sex tourism is one of many forms of child exploitation and abuse. The majority of sex tourists are adult males from more industrialized countries. They travel to lesser developed countries where laws are often not enforced and sex is relatively cheap and readily available. The U.S. is one of the major source countries of sex tourists, as well as Japan and Australia. Child sex tourism is especially prevalent in Asia and Central and South America – Thailand, Cambodia, and Costa Rica are among the most popular sex tourist destinations. A recent report shows that Americans make up an estimated 25% of all sex tourists in the world. The global sex industry is fueled by nearly two million children. Also, 80% of the sex tourists in Costa Rica and 38% in Cambodia are American males.
Although child sex tourism is more prevalent in lesser developed countries, tourists from almost every country in the world finance the sex industry and fuel the demand for young children. The steps taken by globally renowned companies such as Delta Air Lines and Hilton Worldwide, Inc. are a significant advancement in bringing more awareness to the issue.