Sex and travel have a long association, dating from the ancient world onwards, and their connection is still apparent today. Sex tourism is defined by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as “travel planned specifically for the purpose of sex, generally to a country where prostitution is legal”. Domestic sex tourism implies travel within the same country, while trans-national sex tourism refers to travel across international boundaries.
Sex tourism is defined as travel planned specifically for the purpose of sex, generally to a country where prostitution is legal. While much of the literature on sex tourism relates to the commercial sex worker industry, sex tourism also finds expression in non-transactional sexual encounters. This narrative review explores current concepts related to travel and sex, with a focus on trans-national sex tourism.
With regard to preferred destinations, South/Central America and the Caribbean were more likely to receive tourists looking for casual sex. Longer duration of travel, travelling alone or with friends, alcohol or drug use, being younger and being single were factors associated with higher levels of casual sex overseas. The majority of literature retrieved on sex workers focused on risk behaviors, sexually transmitted infections (STI), mobility of sex workers and how these factors affected their lives. Sex tourists require better access to effective methods of preventing HIV, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis, and better education on HIV prevention. Drugs and alcohol play a major role as risk factors for and cofactors in casual sexual behavior while abroad.
Prior to the current pandemic of COVID-19, international travel had reached record levels of activity, with 1.4 billion traveler arrivals recorded in 2018.
While much of the sex tourism relates to the commercial sex worker industry, which remains illegal in many jurisdictions, sex tourism also finds expression in non-transactional sexual encounters, typically involving a tourist from an economically developed country seeking sexual experiences in developing host destinations. In some cases, travelers engage in sex tourism to validate their own sexual identity with greater freedom than would be allowed in their own, more conservative nations.
But now, the multi-billion-dollar sex tourism industry is almost on the verge of collapse with hundreds and thousands of sex workers in various countries pushed into acute economic crisis and even starvation.