The ‘sex tourism’ industry is decidedly complicated. Delving into the murky waters of this taboo subject shows that the tangled web of a growing sex tourism industry has often been overlooked.
The phenomenon of sex tourism, those travelling abroad specifically to obtain sex, has been driven by a rise in cheap flights which has made the industry more profitable and varied.
This enterprise’s expansion has created a wide range of sexual options for tourists of all income levels, from so-called ‘street walkers’ to high-end escorts.
Still dominated by a Western male customer demographic, sex tourism encompasses the wanderlust of uninhibited and hypersexualised experiences, which offers comfort for those who struggle to find sexual solace in their own country or just want a temporary escape from a monogamous relationship. There is also an increasing number of female sex tourists, actively seeking a ‘holiday romance’.
The risk of engaging with this type of tourism is twofold. Each country has varying complex laws regarding sex-industry workers, and often there is a fine line surrounding what is considered legal, and in many countries all forms of prostitution remain against the law. Therefore, many governments remain unwilling or unable to protect sex workers. Secondly, as this industry remains unregulated, the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease is significantly increased.
Additionally, there are many further negative aspects of this ‘sex tourism’ industry; the trafficking of women and children is deeply troubling. The growing sex tourist industry correlates to an increase in sexual exploitation.
A number of high profile cases in recent years have pointed to the exploitation of children and, even with laws in place to prosecute those who commit crimes against children abroad, governments can face difficulties enforcing laws on an international scale. Western countries provide a small, but growing, number of tourists who feed this industry, as they attempt to avoid these laws in their own country. However, this creates a pattern which can create incentives to travel for deeply disturbing preferences.
Although sex tourism is able to increase the number of tourist arrivals for the destination, it negatively effects the destination’s image.
The dependency of some communities on this industry is unfair, and the inclusion of tourists within this cycle only intensifies these harmful elements.
It is an easy habit for many to just ignore the existence of sex tourism, however, it desperately needs to be more fully regulated.