Global destination management specialist Discova has obtained the ChildSafe certification for its Asian teams and destinations, signifying the company’s commitment to protecting the well-being of children through responsible travel initiatives.

In an interview with TTG Asia, Michaela Connor, regional peopleworks leader for Discova, noted that there are many instances where child abuse could happen within tourism.

“Largely, the abuse is a result of exploitation. One of the most common scenarios is found in orphanage tourism. Here, the children themselves become a tourist attraction as their disadvantage is exploited for the financial gain of others. Another shocking example, which gained significant media coverage, involves several cases where tourists have been targeted by locals using ill-looking children as emotional leverage. The claim being that the adult in this scenario wants some money to buy powdered milk formula for their child,” shared Connor.

“These are just two examples where tourists unwittingly support the exploitation of children. By thoroughly training all our staff, specifically our guides, we can give the best advice to our passengers and take the appropriate action to ensure exploitation and abuse is reported in the correct way,” she added.

Connor reflected that being able to influence customers towards child-safe behaviour may be the most difficult to enforce as part of upholding ChildSafe guidelines. “If, for example, we advise customers not to take photographs of local children, by law we cannot enforce this or take the camera off them. We can do our best to educate and influence a change in behaviour and that is always challenging no matter where you are in the world or industry you are in,” she explained.

Discova’s existing relationship with the ChildSafe Movement in Asia made training and certification a natural progression.

“Rolling out training across all our destinations in Asia was always going to be a big job so having some history with the organisation’s practises helped a lot,” said Connor.

Prior to certification, 12 Discova employees volunteered as ambassadors to represent ChildSafe within and outside of Discova. They undertook four assignments that expanded their subject matter knowledge prior to a virtual training course.

The virtual training course, led by Marie Duong, ChildSafe international coordinator, detailed seven ChildSafe tips for travellers and case studies the ambassadors could work on together. Post training, Discova employees sat for an exam and had three weeks to prepare to deliver parts of the same training and be assessed by Duong.

Upon passing the virtual training, exam and live assessment, these Discova employees were granted approval to train the rest of the Discova team.

In response to a question about tracking adherence to the programme, Conner said strategies are in place to raise awareness among partners, suppliers and local communities and to ensure staff are aware of guidelines.

“There will be monthly communications to all employees of what we have achieved that month related to ChildSafe and yearly refreshers and exams to test knowledge,” she added.

There are plans to take training to the Americas and the programme will be tailored to each destination.