The Belize Tourism Industry Association, the recognized voice of tourism in Belize, hosted a focus group at the Radisson Fort George Hotel and Marina to introduce a draft program aimed at the prevention of the commercial sexual exploitation of children and adolescents, with a focus on ethics and corporate social responsibility in tourism, through the national Chambers of tourism in Central America (FEDECATUR) and UNICEF.
The draft program consists of the formulation and implementation of a plan of action. The project’s objective is the prevention of the commercial sexual exploitation in main tourist areas of the region.
The event also hosted the regional technical coordinator of the program, Mrs. Lucy Valenti, who was hired by SITCA to execute the project as well as her assistant, Mrs. Judith Acevedo. At the focus group, Mrs. Valenti gave an introduction on SITCA’s draft proposal on the program with focus on corporate social responsibility for the tourism chambers in Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Panama. Brief presentations on similar successful programs being driven in Honduras, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua and Colombia were also done to emphasize how widespread the issues are and how they are being addressed.
Mrs. Valenti then encouraged an “open-floor” of exchange with the participants on the situation in Belize. The statements made were heated, yet very fruitful and ranged from:
- The legal frameworks that exist and are in need of much revamping.
- Village and town council sensitization on CSEC and sexual exploitation.
- Political and social responsibilities of those charged with regulating facilities and inspections of businesses.
- The incorporation of “seals of approval” along with licensing for hotels and businesses.
- Evaluating programs already in existence and how they can be improved and expanded.
- Providing technical support, training and detection materials to immigration officials.
- Ensuring the proper and timely enforcement of fines and convictions for offenders.
- Creating a database for those involved in the trafficking of persons (victims and offenders)
“The BTIA is committed and will continue in advocating for the responsible and sustainable tourism practices” said Efren Perez, Executive Director, and added “this project will commence shortly and will run for a six month period, bringing awareness to industry stakeholders and ensuring that not only owners but employees are sensitized on the subject matter so we can battle the sexual exploitation in tourism jointly – as we know it is a very important issue for everyone in the industry.”
Attendees at the event included representatives from the International Organization for Migration, University of Belize, Belize Tourism Board, Belize Hotel Association, Belize Red Cross, National Commission for Families and Children, Young Men’s Christian Association, Special Envoy for Women and Children, United Nation’s Children’s Fund, Ministry of Human Development and Edward P. Yorke High School.