Sustainability Communication Example: Child Safe Engages Travelers, Locals, Industry


If you're new here, you may want to subscribe to our Industry News & Updates and receive monthly information on training and capacity building opportunities in tourism.
December 15, 2014

Following our Tourism Training Live session on sustainability communications and destination marketing, we've asked our network to share more examples of sustainability communication best practices. Amy McLoughlin, Responsible Tourism Awards Manager & Associate Specialist at Wild Asia, has shared the following insights into the Child Safe campaign, the winner of the 2014 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards for Most Inspiring Responsible Tourism Initiative.

Sustainable Communications for Multi-Stakeholder Engagement

Child Safe NetworkI think the Child Safe campaign delivered by Friends International has done an amazing job of working with many different stakeholder groups in Cambodia to give exposure to the issue of child safety in tourism and to help prevent exploitation of children through tourism. One of the reasons why Child Safe has been so successful in spreading its message is the campaign team's absolute commitment to multi-stakeholder engagement. For one thing, they are not afraid to talk about an issue that many people shy away from in the tourism industry.

They also effectively use different approaches to crafting and delivering messages for different audiences. For example, the "7 Tips" materials ("7 Better Ways to Help Protect Children around the World") are great for travelers as they are to the point and offer actionable advice specific to situations that many travelers may encounter during their trips. Also, Child Safe has signs and posters strategically positioned in key locations to grab the attention of the audience they aim to reach, e.g. tourists in bars, accommodations and transport hubs, as well as messages placed in in-flight magazines.

The messages are also there for local residents in a visible and impactful way, and the campaign trains tourism professionals to help raise awareness within the tourism industry. ChildSafe is also a great example of engaging young people through their amazing social services and effective online communications.

Child Safe Campaign Messages in Action

I live in the busy tourist city of Siem Reap and everyday I leave my home, I am reminded of why I should not buy into a baby milk scam at my local supermarket and why I should think twice about giving to begging children outside popular restaurants. Thanks to the campaign I've become more alert to identify children in danger of sexual exploitation and how to take action.

Tuk Tuk Drivers as Campaign Ambassadors

Huge numbers of tuk tuk drivers are trained for free through Child Safe campaign, and once fully engaged, they receive a shirt that communicates the messages and become ambassadors for Child Safe. These tuk tuk drivers understand why they should not take visitors to certain sites (e.g. schools and orphanages) and are more alert to look out for things regarding child safety whilst at work. They can also share information with tourists, helping further spread the Child Safe messages.

Child Safe Network Tuk Tuk Driver
Photo © Lucas Veuve, 2013 / Child Safe Network


Alerting Tourists of the Baby Milk Scam

A big problem in Siem Reap is a network of young people who are working in a milk scam ring, where vulnerable children are sent to work and encourage tourists to purchase powdered baby milk (many tourists become convinced that supplying this instead of giving money directly is a less harmful way to give to a begging child). Some supermarkets are in on the scam. Tourists are led to participating ones, the child then returns the milk powder after the tourist has left, and the supermarket takes a cut and the child gets some too.

Child Safe Network Baby Milk Scam
Educating travelers about the baby milk scam (Child Safe Network) 


"Children Are Not Tourist Attractions"

The burgeoning orphanage tourism industry and the damage it causes in Cambodia has been well publicized lately*, but many visitors still want to visit orphanages or schools. This particular campaign under Child Safe, "Children Are Not Tourist Attractions", has a great visual to raise awareness that tourists should not support businesses that allow you to freely interact with children.

Children Are Not Tourist Attractions
The "Children Are Not Tourist Attractions" campaign by the Child Safe Network


*Here are some examples of reports and news article regarding "orphanage tourism" in Cambodia:

  • The Guardian - "Cambodia: child protection workers call for end to 'orphanage tourism'" (2 Janurary 2014): This article includes the following quote from Luke Gracie, alternative care manager at Friends International in Phnom Penh: "People mean well, 99% of people feel they are doing something right and helping the children, providing them some fun… but our argument is that we suggest people think twice about it and think of the longer-term harm that they could be causing."
  • UNICEF Cambodia - "What is UNICEF's position on orphanages, group homes, or residential care for children?": UNICEF Cambodia does not support volunteering in orphanages, and urges travelers to instead consider volunteering with organisations that have shifted their focus to community-based support, and for those who have the necessary skills, working in programs not related to caring for children directly, for example, by helping to improve NGO administrative systems, training care-staff or fund-raising.
  • Al Jazeera English - "Cambodia's Orphanage Business" (27 June 2012): This People & Power report by Al Jazeera describes how well-intentioned volunteers have helped to create a surge in the number of orphanages, and how 'voluntourism' is fueling the exploitation of Cambodian children as some businesses seek to benefit from the 'orphanage business'.

Amy has a decade-long, varied background in responsible tourism, with hands-on experience in the UK, India, Malaysia, and Cambodia.