Most travel-related articles paint delightful pictures of scenic beauty and dreams fulfilled. This one has considerably darker overtones – but please don’t stop reading! As a traveler, it’s important that you know about this issue. January is National Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention Month and every traveler can help to eliminate the sexual exploitation of children and adults.
What is Human Trafficking?
Many people think that human trafficking involves physically kidnapping someone or taking them across a border. This is a misconception. The bad guy doesn’t have to blindfold or shackle their prey. More often they lure or groom people into victimhood. Many victims are homeless and hungry so they are ripe for the psychological manipulations of unscrupulous assailants like Jeffrey Epstein.
Human trafficking occurs when a person is bought or sold for sexual purposes, including abuse that is recorded in photographs or videos then sold. It also includes labor exploitation, aka slavery. Human trafficking happens to children under the age of 18, as well as adults. It takes place globally and has been reported in all 50 United States. Human trafficking happens in cities, suburbs, and rural areas. Because it is a clandestine activity, accurate statistics are hard to pin down, but the number of estimated victims of modern slavery is shocking and distressing.
Creating Corporate Awareness
With the unintentional help of social media, online gaming, and other digital communications, child trafficking is moving off the streets to airports and hotels, making it easy to miss. Victims can be bought and sold or sexually exploited behind the closed doors of a hotel room. Airlines are used to move victims from place to place while it may just look like a parent and child to the casual observer.
ECPAT-USA is a policy organization that not only advocates for anti-trafficking legislation but also promotes corporate responsibility among private companies. They specifically focus on the travel and tourism sector. GBTA, BCD Travel, and Meeting Planners International are members of EPCAT-USA’s Code of Conduct. Many leading travel suppliers, such as Delta Air Lines, Marriott International, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and Uber Technologies are members as well. The Code requires members to train their employees on how to identify and report cases of trafficking.
Major companies have begun to implement RFP language asking travel suppliers about this issue and show preference to those who do. ECPAT offers a training program for travel management professionals, corporate travel managers, and those responsible for meetings and events. It’s a 25-minute online course that costs $30. It identifies what human trafficking is, signs of it happening, and what to do. It also teaches employees how to have conversations with potential suppliers and how to become an activist on the issue.
How to Take Action Individually
As a traveler, you can be alert to the signs of human trafficking and help prevent someone from being held against their will. Save this ECPAT-USA Child Trafficking Travel Indicators card on your phone for easy reference. If you see something suspicious, make a report to hotel/airport management or call the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1 (888) 373-7888.
Choose responsible travel companies. Many hotel chains, management companies, and properties are members of ECPAT’s Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct. If your hotel has not signed The Code, use this letter to ask them to join.
Donate hotel loyalty points to support ECPAT-USA’s work to protect children from exploitation.
Donate your birthday with a fund-raiser on Facebook. Use this link to start your campaign.
Run, walk, cycle or swim with the ECPAT-Athletes to raise awareness of the issue of human trafficking.
Human trafficking is a global problem but one which individuals, companies, and travel suppliers can fight. Please don’t look away.