05 Oct

Industry urged to support campaign against orphanage tourism this October

ABTA, international charity Hope and Homes for Children and Border Force will be advising UK tourists and volunteers against visiting overseas orphanages through a campaign this October.  

With a growing global movement to eliminate the institutional care of children, the team will be raising awareness of the campaign on Anti-Slavery Day, 18 October 2022.

Orphanage tourism is where often well-meaning people volunteer in or visit an orphanage whilst abroad, through activities such as day trips, gap year volunteering and study abroad programmes, not knowing that these institutions are causing harm to children. Destinations where these activities are offered include Southern and East Africa and South Asia. 

ABTA is encouraging Members to support the campaign through social media on Anti-Slavery Day, and by sharing messages with customers who are travelling to those destinations. The campaign materials are available at the ABTA Member Zone.

Part of the campaign will see specialist Border Force Officers at Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester airports speaking to holidaymakers heading to destinations where orphanage tourism is in operation and advising travellers that many orphanages are money-making businesses that exploit children to make money from tourists.  

An estimated 5.4 million children live in orphanages worldwide, yet 80% of them are not orphans; most are separated from their families because of poverty, disability or discrimination. Misdirected donations, holidaymaker visits and volunteer projects in orphanages can help to fuel corrupt orphanages that tear families apart, exploit children for commercial gain and expose them to abuse. All too often, money generated by orphanage tourism ends up in the pockets of orphanage owners, instead of benefiting children and their families.  

Carol Rose, Senior Sustainability Manager, ABTA – The Travel Association said:

“On the surface, volunteering in orphanages seems like a thoughtful, charitable thing to do, but what the majority of people don’t realise is that instead of helping vulnerable children they are actually sustaining a practice which is ultimately unethical and detrimental to children and communities in these destinations, as well as exploiting money from tourists.  

“Anti-Slavery Day is the perfect opportunity to shine a light on this important global issue, and we’re keen for as many Members as possible to echo the messages of the campaign through their own channels and customer communications.” 

Nolan Quigley, Director of Global Advocacy, Hope and Homes for Children, added:

“Orphanage tourism is a booming business that is tearing families apart, while exposing children to unvetted adults and child labour. 8 out of 10 orphans confined in overseas orphanages aren’t orphans. Many are taken from poor families and used as commodities to attract donations from the well-meaning Western tourists.

“The more children the orphanage has, the more donations the orphanage owner pockets. Some orphanages even employ professional child-finders who persuade vulnerable parents in remote communities to give up their children with the false promise of schooling, food and medication. Once a child is locked up in a tourist hotspot far away from home, they’re often forced to beg and perform for visitors, and parents can be prevented from visiting.  

“Unvetted tourists cannot pay to visit children in the UK care system, so UK holidaymakers should certainly not be allowed to visit overseas orphanages. Please, instead, support charity projects that strengthen vulnerable families and communities.”


Notes to editors

ABTA has been a trusted travel brand for over 70 years. Our purpose is to help our Members to grow their businesses successfully and sustainably, and to help their customers travel with confidence. The ABTA brand stands for support, protection and expertise. This means consumers have confidence in ABTA and a strong trust in ABTA Members. These qualities are core to us as they ensure that holidaymakers remain confident in the holiday products that they buy from our Members.

We help our Members and their customers navigate through today's changing travel landscape by raising standards in the industry; offering schemes of financial protection; providing an independent complaints resolution service should something go wrong; giving guidance on issues from sustainability to health and safety and by presenting a united voice to government to ensure the industry and the public get a fair deal.
ABTA has around 4,000 travel brands in Membership, providing a wide range of leisure and business travel services, with a combined pre-pandemic annual UK turnover of £40 billion. For more details about what we do, what being an ABTA Member means and how we help the UK public travel with confidence visit www.abta.com.