Most people plan holidays with a variety of fun activities in mind, from sight seeing to sampling exotic food to absorbing some culture at local museums. However, playing it safe and engaging in family fun isn’t everyone’s cup of tea: some people are looking for more of a thrill. Sex tourism, in which the main goal of a trip is to engage in sexual activity, often with prostitutes, is a booming global industry. Most clients involved in sex tourism are men, while a majority of the sex workers are women. Although, female sex tourism exists in smaller numbers. Sex tourism is an industry worth billions of dollars that is estimated to have millions of sex workers involved worldwide, and the practice can be legal or illegal, depending on regional laws, whether the activity is consensual, and whether children or sex trafficking are involved. Below are some of the top destinations in the world for sex tourism: prostitution is legal in some, but not in all of the countries listed.
10 Dominican Republic
Many Caribbean countries are seeing a rise in sex tourism, especially female sex tourism, and the Dominican Republic is no exception. It is estimated that anywhere from 60,000 to 100,000 women work in the sex trade in the Dominican Republic, and many cross over from Haiti as well. Prostitution is not illegal in the Dominican Republic, although sex with minors is, and sadly many of the sex workers here are minors. The country’s sex tourism trade may be so popular due to its relative accessibility from both the United States and Europe.
Cambodia has strict laws regarding prostitution, but the practice is still extremely relevant, and Cambodia remains a popular destination for sex tourism. Cambodia’s rocky history during the twentieth century, including the Khmer Rouge, caused laws regarding prostitution to rise and fall in varying degrees of severity. Currently, Cambodia is plagued by problems with child sex tourism. Stricken by debilitating poverty, parents sometimes sell their own children into sex slavery, while others are tricked into the industry. A child’s virginity is often extremely valuable and will be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Additionally, violence against sex workers is common. Unfortunately, sex tourism has cast a dark shadow over Cambodia, and many are left without alternatives.
8 The Netherlands
Amsterdam is the top spot for sex tourism in the Netherlands, thanks to its infamous red light district. The red light district is popular for both standard tourists and sex tourists alike, and sex shops, peep shows, strip clubs and countless prostitutes selling their wares behind red-lit glass windows abound. Prostitution is legal and well regulated in Amsterdam, which arguably creates safer conditions for sex workers. Prices in Amsterdam generally range from 35-100 Euros, depending on the time of day, as well as the client’s age and attractiveness. Amsterdam’s notorious red light district caters to every kind of fetish and kink and the best part is, it’s (relatively) safe.
Like many other places on this list, the driving force behind the flourishing sex tourism industry in Kenya is poverty. Prostitution among the poor, uneducated and often young prostitutes in Kenya, has spurred the spread of HIV/AIDS, because few sex workers are educated about the dangers of STIs. Often, children as young as 12 fall victim to the sex tourism industry in Kenya. Many young girls in Kenya only use a condom 60% of the time, although they frequently see up to five clients per day. Despite these dangers, prostitution is not discouraged by the Kenyan Tourism Police, for the country desperately needs the economic boost from tourism.
6 The Philippines
Although prostitution is illegal and often comes with harsh punishments in the Philippines, the sex tourism trade is alive and well. There are approximately 500,000 sex workers who masquerade as bar girls in the Philippines, and most clients are businessmen from East Asia or Western countries. Filipinos tend to be extremely tolerant of diverse lifestyles, which may be one reason why prostitution and sex tourism have flourished in the Philippines. One of the most shocking things about sex tourism in the Philippines is the sheer volume of it – a whopping 40-60% of tourists who visit the country are estimated to have traveled to the Philippines for sex tourism alone.
Many of the countries listed here are located in Southeast Asia, but Colombia, renowned for its opulent drug lords, is located in South America and is another hot spot for sex tourism. Word on the street is that many Colombian sex workers will lower their prices if the client is attractive and a good negotiator, which may be why the country is so popular when it comes to sex tourism. However, thousands probably also flock to Colombia hoping that every woman will look like beautifully curvy, Colombian native Sofia Vergara.
Indonesia is another country that has a problem with child sex trafficking. Sex tourism exploits and furthers this problem, despite the fact that prostitution is legally considered a ‘crime against decency and morality.’ Although prostitution is illegal, Indonesia remains a popular site for sex tourism. Sex workers can be found in traditional brothels, but one thing that sets the sex tourism industry in Indonesia apart is the popularity of online sex forums and prostitution rings that exist through social media. The availability of sex workers via the internet allows for ratings and facilitates the process of finding a prostitute. It seems like Indonesia’s sex tourism is highly efficient.
Cities like Ibiza, Madrid and Barcelona have long been tourist destinations for all night clubbing, but a new kind of tourist activity is starting to increase in Spain. Prostitution is legal in Spain, making it one of the top destinations in Europe for sex tourism. In Madrid, the red light district is interwoven with regular streets, so it’s very accessible, whereas in Barcelona, the red light district is a popular tourist attraction. Surprisingly, there are often more South American sex workers present in Spain than Spanish sex workers, and many of the women are basically slaves to the sex industry. Although the film, Taken depicted France as a major player in the sex trafficking industry, Spain is one of the most popular European destinations for sex tourism.
Brazil has always been a popular tourist destination due to its exotic wildlife, beautiful people, pristine beaches and raucous festivals like Carnival. But it appears that Brazil might be vying for the number one spot for sex tourism as well. Additionally, Brazil is a popular destination for female sex tourism, which generally doesn't see rates as high as male sex tourism. Brazil’s government has been especially watchful for sex tourism and sex trafficking during preparations for the World Cup, but the thriving sex trade doesn't seem to be slowing down.
It’s no surprise that Thailand is on the top of this list, considering the popularity of Bangkok’s red light district and portrayals of it in films like The Hangover Part II. Laws against prostitution in Thailand are hazy, and the country has a bit of a reputation for its sexually permissive nature. Many Thai people believe that prostitution and tolerating other’s lifestyles are a necessary part of Thai culture, so the ‘oldest profession in the world’ has flourished here, including the famous 'ladyboys'. There are approximately 3 million sex workers in Thailand, of whom roughly a third are minors. Unfortunately, a large number of the sex workers in Thailand are prostitutes through human trafficking, although the industry is often well regulated and the sex workers are there by choice.