Scandinavian Hotel Bans Porn Channels, Opts for Art Instead

In the privacy of a hotel room, you can pretty much do whatever you want. Order room service, spend the entire day in a robe, engage in a casual affair, watch porn. Well, not in Scandinavia.

Scandinavian hotel chain Nordic Choice owner Petter Stordalen has decided to get rid of all pay-TV porn channels and replace them with contemporary art instead. That is of course the complete opposite move of other Scandinavian moguls, who went as far as to propose sex themed hotels.

Why the move to ban porn? It’s for humanitarian reasons.

Stordalen is making a statement against human trafficking and sexual exploitation, which has victimized 1.2 million children around the world. “The porn industry contributes to trafficking, so I see it as a natural part of having a social responsibility to send out a clear signal that Nordic Hotels doesn’t support or condone this,” Stordalen told The Guardian. Nordic Choice has been collaborating with UNICEF to improve the lives of children since 2008.

So instead of porn on demand, there will be art on demand, which makes sense for Stordalen who is a big art collector. He’s also Norway‘s sixth richest man, so his move could make waves. He compares his own porn ban to a smoking ban. “It may sound shocking or unusual [to remove pay-TV porn], but everyone said that about the ban on smoking. We were the first hotel chain in the world to ban smoking and people thought we were crazy. Now it’s totally normal for public spaces to be smoke-free.”

The Nordic Choice’s flagship hotel in Oslo was first on the list for the porn-art switch out, but other hotels are soon to join.

One Good Use For Leftover Foreign Currency

When traveling abroad, I often find myself frantically running around the airport shops before my flight home, trying to spend the last of my spare foreign currency. Although I attempt to make smart purchase choices, I usually end up just grabbing cheap junk I’ll never look at again.

Fortunately, numerous airline carriers, like American Airlines, Qantas and Cathay Pacific, are partnering with UNICEF to take part in their Change For Good program. The project takes traveler’s spare change and uses it to help children in need.

According to Smithsonian’s The Constant Traveler, proceeds have gone to purchasing immunizations, birth registration and HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, helping earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan as well as drought sufferers in the Horn of Africa. Furthermore, airline staff is often deeply committed to the project, sometimes even visiting the communities where the funds are being put to use.

If you’re flying with an airline that doesn’t participate in the program, you can still mail in your spare foreign change. Click here for more information.

[Image via bradipo]

Orphanage tourism and Cambodia’s fight to end it

In Cambodia, it’s not uncommon for tourists to be offered tours of local orphanages in the same way they’re offered tours of Angkor Wat.

It might be tempting to accept the opportunity to experience “the real Cambodia,” especially when you’re confronted by extreme poverty at every turn. But before you do, a new campaign backed by international NGO Friends-International and UNICEF asks you to think again.

“Travelers care for Cambodia and are often disturbed by the perceived situation of children,” said Sebastien Marot, Executive Director of Friends-International, whose headquarters are in Cambodia. “It is essential for them to understand the real situation and what positive actions they can take to effectively protect and support these children.”

A recent study of Cambodia’s residential institutions showed that the rapidly growing practice of “orphanage tourism” actually does more harm than good, violating the rights of children and contributing to the separation of families. The study revealed that 72 percent of children living in institutions labeled “orphanages” have at least one living parent, and that the number of these types of institutions has grown in recent years, despite the fact that the number of orphaned and vulnerable children has shrunk. The study also showed that a number of these orphanage tourism schemes are run by unscrupulous business operators, and many aren’t regulated.Orphanages in themselves aren’t bad, but visitors must be aware of the effects of their actions. The Friends/UNICEF campaign encourages tourists to ask themselves a number of questions before they decide to visit an orphanage, including:

  • Are visitors allowed to just drop in and have direct access to children without supervision? Orphanages that allow strangers off the street to interact with children unsupervised, without conducting sufficient background checks, are not protecting the interests of the children.
  • Are children required to work or participate in securing funds for the orphanage? The songs and dances may be cute, but they can also be viewed as child labor and groom children for begging and street work that leaves them open to exploitation.
  • Does the orphanage have an active family reunification program? The extended family plays an important role in Cambodian culture, and efforts should be made to reunite orphaned children with family members that can care for them.

One of the most important questions, though, is one visitors should ask themselves.

“You aren’t allowed to go anywhere and hug a child in your own country,” said Marot. “Why should you be able to do it here?”

To learn more about positive ways to protect children in your travels, check out these seven tips from Friends-International.

British man driving himself around the world

A little more than a year ago, Roy Locock set out from his home in the U.K. with the simple plan of proving someone wrong. He had been told by friends that there was no way he could possibly drive around the world. But now, 14 months later, he’s not only through the most challenging part of the journey, he’s in the home stretch, having reached Regina, Canada yesterday.

Roy left the U.K. and drove across Europe, into Asia, where he eventually arrived in India. From there, he caught a boat to Australia, drove across that country, and caught another boat to South America. Turning is car north, he continued to drive, until he crossed into North America, eventually arriving at his current location in Canada. He’ll head east from Regina, eventually reaching the Atlantic coast, where he’ll grab one last boat back home.

Before setting out, Roy decided he needed to find just the right car to accompany him on his journey. He admits that he wanted to travel in style and look good on his long distance road trip. He eventually settled on a 1977 MG Midget convertible that he lovingly dubbed “Bridget the Midget”, a car that the he says he had wanted since he was a teenager.

The around-the-world drive isn’t just about proving his friends wrong however and it isn’t just about the adventure either. Roy is also driving for a cause, as he has been raising funds for UNICEF, a charity that met his two criteria, of having an international reach, and directly benefited children in the process.

With a little luck, Roy should be home in just a few weeks time. But he isn’t in much of a hurry. He has enjoyed his time on this journey, and admits that he likes the freedom of the open road. The question is, how many others has he inspired to get in their car, drive down the street, and just keep going, in the process.

[via the Lake Powell Chronicle]

Sex Tourism becoming increasingly popular with older women

When you think of a “sex tourist”, you probably think of a dirty old man in Asia, molesting young boys. As it turns out, these filthy old men now have some competition.

International organization “Defense for Children-EPCAT” is sounding the alarm bell for a disturbing new trend in the world of sex tourism – older women heading to Africa for the sole purpose of sex.

A spokesperson for the organization reports on an increasing number of European and American women taking “tours” to Africa for sex.

The women involved in this disturbing new trend become part of it in one of two ways; Some of them are approached by their “tour guide”, falling for their charm and engaging in sex, others know exactly what they are doing, and take the trip purely for the sex.

Sadly, many of the kids participating are still minors, as it isn’t always easy to correctly judge their age. A UNICEF report says that over 30% of children between 12 and 18 in Kenya are involved in the sex tourism business, a horrifying statistic.

A new initiative by EPCAT, UNICEF and the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization) introduced a code of conduct to be adopted by any supplier or tourism. Of course, as with any initiative like this, it relies on the support of the industry, and it won’t help against tourists booking their trips outside a group package.