Albania's tourism industry is on the rise, increasing risk of child sexual exploitation, warns new report

Durrës is one of the tourist beach destinations in Albania. Photo by Genti Behramaj, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

As tourism begins to play an increasingly significant role in Albania's economy, one Albanian NGO warns that with the travel and tourism industry being a key contributor to the economic and sexual exploitation of children, the country's young people may be at risk.

In their recently published report, the Child Rights Centre Albania (CRCA/ECPAT Albania) expressed concern that the authorities in both the tourism sector and child protection system lack information and knowledge on the links between the travel and tourism industry and child sexual exploitation. The report represents the first research conducted in Albania on the sexual exploitation of children in the tourism industry.

Tourism contributes to the development of a country's economy, especially in sectors such as travel, culture, gastronomy, and hospitality. In 2021 alone, Albania received more than 5.6 million foreign visitors, most of them from the European Union.

But as the CRCA/ECPAT Albania research reveals:

“Child poverty remains one of the major issues for the exercise of the rights of the child, affecting at least 40 percent of children. The development of travel and tourism sector in Albania and the increase of both local and foreign tourists has amplified the risks of sexual exploitation of children in the tourism. In recent years, Albania has recorded an increase in sexual crimes against children, including the sexual exploitation of children in prostitution, while trafficking for the purposes of economic and sexual exploitation continues to affect a high number of children.”

According to CRCA/ECPAT Albania, it is evident that no Albanian company in the field of travel and tourism has signed the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism. The sector itself has never engaged in the fight against sexual exploitation of children and does not provide any information on the protection of children from sexual exploitation.

Altin Hazizaj, Chief Executive Officer of CRCA/ECPAT Albania, stated at a public event unveiling the results of the study in Tirana on September 21:

“The main recommendations of the study focus on the development of new laws, policies and programs by the travel and tourism industry and the child protection system, aiming to put the protection of children from sexual exploitation at the center of all the initiatives, while law enforcement agencies and tourism operators should increase the level of information and training of staff on this issue, including the membership of hotels in the Code.”

The common term used for sexual exploitation of children in the context of travel and tourism (SECTT) is “child sex tourism.” In their report, CRCA/ECPAT Albania warns that this terminology fails to name the criminal nature of child sexual exploitation, instead implying that these crimes are some form of “tourism.” They reiterate the issue definition used by the initiators of the Code, that states:

SECTT is not another form of tourism, it is a crime – and should be named as such. Offenders who abuse and exploit children are not ‘sex tourists’ – they are criminals.

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