ITB Berlin: UNWTO says no, ICTP says yes on child protection through tourism

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Sexual exploitation of children through tourism, human trafficking of children because of tourism – these are sad realities in today’s visitor industry. Leading stakeholders in the aviation and hospitality world have been putting a lot of emphasis into providing training and awareness to this dark side of travel. Interpol and national police forces like Scotland Yard, the FBI, and the Royal Dutch Police are only some of the active supporters and are readily available to attend global meetings such as the UNWTO annual meeting for Child Protection during the ITB travel trade show in Berlin.

For the last 20 plus years, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) had been giving a platform not only to members of their own Executive Committee for child protection but to groups wanting to demonstrate activities, challenges, and best practices at a public event during the annual ITB travel trade show in Berlin, Germany. A second meeting at the World Travel Market (WTM) in London was canceled by UNWTO due to budget issues several years ago.

Former UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai had made child protection a priority when he was leading the UN agency until the end of last year. After the new UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili took over the UN-specialized agency in 2018, Executive Committee members were caught by surprise when the UNWTO Secretariat informed them only one month before ITB that their meeting was canceled. A clear reason was not given. eTN repeatetly reached out to UNWTO to find out more. This request was met with silence.

In a last-ditch effort, the International Coalition of Tourism Partners (ICTP), under the leadership of their Chairman Juergen Steinmetz, who is also a member of the UNWTO Executive Committee for child protection, organized a non-official and open meeting of UNWTO stakeholders, ICTP members, and anyone interested in child protection in tourism. The Nepal Tourism Board CEO Deepak Raj Jos did not hesitate one minute and opened his stand for this meeting.

“It’s a pity that UNWTO has discontinued the event. We support and laude ICTP’s initiative,” “It is enough about child abuse through tourism, and we support the initiative by ICTP and love the motion,” were typical responses received by many of the 28 representatives that had registered so far.

Dorothy Rozga, Executive Director of ECPAT International, wrote: “I was not planning to come to ITB this year. However, as a response to your excellent and appreciated initiative, I will there for the meeting.”

So far, ICTP received 28 registrations from Thailand, India, the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Zimbabwe, Germany, Pakistan, Guinea Bissau, the USA, Serbia, Nepal, and South Africa.

Representatives from ECPAT, THE CODE, WYSE, ABTA, WSO, and the Ministry of Tourism and Sports Thailand, as well as the International Delphic Council are planning to attend. ICTP invited UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili, but so far UNWTO did not respond.

Anyone attending ITB Berlin next week is invited to participate. Registration: http://ictp.travel/itb2018/

  • WHEN? Friday, March 9, 2018: 11.15 h
  • WHERE? ITB Berlin, Stand 5.2a / 116 (Nepal Tourism Board)
  • WHO? ICTP members, leaders of the global travel and tourism industry, associations and media
  • REGISTER:  Click here

Steinmetz, who is also the publisher of eTurboNews, said: “Child Protection is too important to be ignored at the largest travel industry event in the world. I am pleased to see organizations and countries showing leadership. We are open to anyone wanting to contribute to our meeting. We are inviting anyone wanting to learn more on how to get involved. We hope UNWTO, WTTC, and PATA will consider joining us as well. We invited the UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili to join us, but so far no response was received. Register at http://ictp.travel/itb2018/ and see you in Berlin.”

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Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1979), beginning as a travel agent up through today as a publisher of eTurboNews (eTN), one of the world’s most influential and most-read travel and tourism publications. He is also Chairman of ICTP. His experiences include working and collaborating with various national tourism offices and non-governmental organizations, as well as private and non-profit organizations, and in planning, implementing, and quality control of a range of travel and tourism-related activities and programs, including tourism policies and legislation. His major strengths include a vast knowledge of travel and tourism from the point of view of a successful private enterprise owner, superb networking skills, strong leadership, excellent communication skills, strong team player, attention to detail, dutiful respect for compliance in all regulated environments, and advisory skills in both political and non-political arenas with respect to tourism programs, policies, and legislation. He has a thorough knowledge of current industry practices and trends and is a computer and Internet junkie.