G Adventures Launches Child Welfare Guidelines For Travellers

Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw

G Adventures says an increase in community tourism, as well as social media use, has driven the company to lead the charge in educating people on how to interact responsibly with children when they travel. The operator says many of the guidelines will surprise well-intentioned travellers. 

Among the no-no’s: Taking selfies with children; geo-tagging their location on social media; visiting school classrooms; and giving money and gifts directly to children. According to G’s guidelines, all of these are potentially harmful activities that well-meaning travellers need to stop doing. 

The child welfare guidelines were developed in partnership with international child protection experts ChildSafe Movement and G-founded Planeterra Foundation. 

This month, G Adventures became the first global travel company to be officially ChildSafe Certified. The designation is a recognition of the work that has been undertaken to safeguard children's well-being, both with G Adventures’ travellers and staff.

A new short, shareable, video has been launched to support the campaign, and travellers are being encouraged to sign a pledge to be more responsible when interacting with children in the destinations they travel to. Top tips for travellers include: 

  1. Photos-- To local children, travellers are strangers. Be considerate and don’t take photos with children without their parent or guardian’s permission, and don’t geotag children as this can make them susceptible to trafficking and desensitize them to strangers.
  2. Classrooms--  Interrupting a lesson is never okay. There are better ways to learn about local life than school classroom visits.
  3. Handouts and gifts-- It’s easy to think a dollar or a gift helps children, but travellers should think about the long-term effects. Over time, this behaviour can force children to stay out of school to beg, leading to a cycle of dependency and poverty. Instead, donate to organizations that help youth and their families, such as G Adventures’ non-profit partner, Planeterra, which supports a number of youth and family projects globally. 
  4. Safety-- If you see a child in a situation that just doesn’t seem right, do the right thing and report it right way.
  5. Think about what you’d do in this scenario at home -- If you wouldn’t do it here, don’t do it anywhere. Kids are kids, no matter where they live.

Jamie Sweeting, vice president of social enterprise and responsible travel at G Adventures, says the guidelines are the latest in the company’s ‘G for Good’ suite of responsible travel initiatives, which are designed to help people travel better, and they complement guidelines for protecting wildlife and Indigenous people and cultures. 

“As a travel company we want to make sure we’re doing the best we can. With ChildSafe Movement’s help, we’ve developed a policy based on the global guidelines to govern all G Adventures’ operations, which is helping us make appropriate changes in how we educate our travellers, as well as our office and field staff. 

“We’ve also swept our digital assets and owned channels to ensure all our media complies, have removed all school classroom visits from our itineraries, and have completed an internal training program for all staff. We’ve set up a task force for monitoring and reporting compliance with our policy, and it will be an ongoing effort to continue to live up to our ChildSafe Certification,” says Sweeting.

G Adventures is also encouraging other businesses in the travel industry to adopt its Child Welfare and the Travel Industry: Global Good Practice Guidelines. A wide range of contributors provided their expertise and insights into the guidelines, including the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which welcomed their introduction.

Bruce Parkinson

Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief

An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.

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