Sex tourism is one of the main features of market for various tourist destinations around the globe.
The WTO (World Tourism Organization) defines sex tourism as “trips organised from within the tourism sector, or from outside this sector but using its structures and networks, with the primary purpose of effecting a commercial sexual relationship by the tourist with residents at the destination”.
Globally, the sex tourism industry is valued at billions of dollars, encompassing millions of sex workers worldwide. Below is a list by CNBCTV of some of the world’s most prominent and frequently-visited sex tourism destinations in no particular order.
Germany legalised prostitution, even allowing it on the streets. The country has a long history of structured sex work, dating back to 1200 AD. Many willingly engage in this trade, with advertisements and job listings facilitated by human resources companies.
2. The Netherlands
Often hailed as a paradise for sex enthusiasts, The Netherlands is one of the most popular global sex tourism destinations. Prostitution is legal and regulated here. De Wallen in Amsterdam stands out as the largest and most famous red-light district, attracting international sex tourists seeking cubicle-based experiences.
Colombia’s women are frequently regarded as among the most beautiful globally, fostering a thriving sex tourism industry. The country has legalized the sex trade, though ongoing efforts to address illicit and grey areas within it.
This sought-after Asian destination draws budget-conscious tourists seeking an adventurous side. Prostitution is legal, employing an estimated three million sex workers within the industry.
5. Dominican Republic
Legal brothels, massage parlours, and open presence of prostitutes are common in downtown areas such as Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata. In terms of exporting sex workers, the country ranks fourth worldwide.
While renowned for its lively nightlife scenes in cities like Madrid, Ibiza, and Barcelona, Spain has also emerged as a notable sex tourism destination. These cities feature distinct red-light areas. However, in 2022 Spain was debating a law to abolish prostitution.
Despite its legal prohibition, prostitution is prevalent in cities like Penang, Kuala Lumpur, and Ipoh. Most sex workers come from neighbouring countries like China and Thailand. Related activities such as soliciting and brothels are illegal as well. In the two states of Terengganu and Kelantan, Muslims convicted of prostitution could be punished with public caning.
Known for its captivating wildlife, Kenya is also home to one of the largest sex tourism industries in Africa. It surprisingly appeals to older white women seeking companionship.
9. The Philippines
This nation boasts a substantial domestic sex industry, with over 800,000 individuals engaged in the trade. The legacy of “girlie” bars, present during World War II, has contributed to its international reputation.
Prostitution is legal here, although operating brothels or employing sex workers remains illegal. Despite these restrictions, numerous brothels operate within cities, offering sexual services to visitors.