The travel industry — long an unwitting participant in human trafficking at hotels and on airplanes, trains and buses — lately has been increasing efforts to combat the problem, working with private advocacy groups and the federal government in long-term, coordinated initiatives that go beyond its normal philanthropic activities.
“People don’t realize how prevalent it is,” Sam Gilliland, chief executive of the travel technology company Sabre Holdings, said of the trafficking problem. “It is not restricted to certain areas in the world. It’s everywhere.” In September, Sabre launched its “Passport to Freedom” initiative, which will train its 10,000 employees in 60 countries how to identify and report potential trafficking incidents. Sabre, which owns Travelocity, plans to expand its outreach to businesses, travel agents and travelers who use its software and will eventually include informational links in all itineraries to raise awareness of the largely hidden problem.
In October, the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Transportation and Amtrak announced stepped-up efforts against trafficking. Through a partnership, the Department of Transportation is in the process of training more than 55,000 employees and Amtrak plans to train some 20,000 employees to counter the problem. “Everyone has a role to play in putting a stop to human trafficking,” Ray LaHood, the transportation secretary, said, “and at D.O.T., we’re doing our part by making sure that no form of transportation is used to move people against their will. By working with partners in the transportation and travel industry, we can help train even more people to identify the signs, speak up — and possibly save a life.”
The United States travel industry’s commitment to fight trafficking has gathered momentum since 2004, when Ecpat USA, or End Child Prostitution and Trafficking, introduced the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct, a voluntary set of guidelines for the travel and tourism industry. Carlson became the first United States-based global travel and hospitality company to join in 2004, and since then the Wyndham Worldwide Corporation, Delta Air Lines, Accor hotels, Hilton Worldwide, the Real Hospitality Group and Sabre have signed. Marilyn Carlson Nelson, chairman of Carlson, said, “The travel and hospitality industry is in a unique position to address this problem.” The company, whose brands include Radisson, Country Inns and Suites and T.G.I. Friday’s, says its more than 80,000 hotel employees in 81 countries receive required training to deter trafficking of children.
Learn more at Tanya Mohn’s New York Times article: The Travel Industry Takes On Human Trafficking.