“Orphanage Tourism” in Thailand: Acceptable? or Strange?

The following is from Scan Asia: (source)

Unethical “orphanage-tourism” for visiting Danes in SE Asia

by Kristian Lauritzen / on February 21, 2014

Several Danish travel agencies arrange trips to orphanages as a part of package tours to Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia. The Chairman of Børns Vilkår, Peter Albæk, a Danish children’s organisation, calls it tasteless and unethical.

Photo opportunities and a few hours of playing time with orphans at children homes have become popular among Danish tourists as a part of exotic travels to Southeast Asian countries.

“These things have to stop. Let’s say it happened the other way around: foreigners coming to Denmark to visit children homes as tourists. It resembles a zoo. It is simply morally unacceptable, “ Peter Albæk said.

The travel agencies describes the visits as unique possibilities for Danes to experience “warm-hearted attention” from the children, and the visitors will get a peek into the authentic world of parentless Third World children.

Peter Albæk’s opinion is backed by child psychologist from Red Barnet, children organisation, Anne-Sophie Dybdal. She finds it difficult to see what the children are gaining from these experiences.

“They are being objectified as “things”, and has to be touched and observed by complete strangers. That can be very damaging to already vulnerable kids, “ she said.

Albatros Travel, Karavanerejser, Stjernegaard Rejser og MarcoPolo are some of the travel agencies that arranges for orphanage trips.

Steen Albrechtsen, Press Secretary at Albatros Travel, disagrees with children’s organizations. “Our aim is not to get tourists to cuddle the children, but to give a balanced and varied insight to reality. When people get to experience the life of these orphans, they tend to open up their wallets and be generous with donations – and that, undoubtedly, makes a difference,” he insisted.

Peter Albæk disagrees to that viewpoint, and calls it a pseudo-argument.

“Just because these children are in need of our support and donation, does not give us the right to make this into an attraction for tourists, “ he said.

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