Travel Industry in War on Human Trafficking

The travel and tourism industry is increasingly joining the fight against human trafficking, a $32 billion industry that enslaves an estimated 27 million people worldwide, according to data from the U.S. State Department and the International Labour Organization. One reason the industry has taken up the challenge is that travel and tourism can easily become an unwitting accomplice in the human trafficking infrastructure: Planes transport perpetrators and their victims; traffickers with groups of children pass through international checkpoints; hotels house pimps and their victims and provide a venue for exploitation. Airlines, restaurants and hotels buy food, textiles and manufactured goods using supply chains that at some point might involve forced labor.

But travel, which provides one out of every 11 jobs in the world, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council, is also uniquely positioned to fight back. Today, travel agencies, hotels and airlines are working with government agencies ranging from Customs and Border Protection to the State Department as well as with a variety of nonprofit organizations to stop human trafficking and to help survivors rebuild their lives.

Ecpat (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes) is a global network of organizations dedicated to ending the trafficking of children for sex. Its Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism (The Code) has more than 1,300 companies from 42 countries signed on to it. In essence, the Code is a how-to guide for fighting sex trafficking of children. Signatories agree to train employees and travelers on how to recognize signs of sexual exploitation and how to report suspected cases. They also agree to include clauses in their contracts requiring companies in their supply chain to repudiate child sex trafficking.

In 2004, Carlson Companies stepped up to the plate and decided that using its resources in the fight against child sex trafficking was worth any risk that the campaign might tarnish the Carlson brand. Carlson introduced child protection training into its employee curriculum in 2005, and it is now part of its Responsible Business training program, which all 175,000 of its employees worldwide are required to take. Sabre quickly recognized that traffickers probably were using many of the suppliers and travel retailers with which Sabre worked. In addition to sexual exploitation, Sabre’s anti-trafficking efforts cover forced labor. Sabre launched a broader awareness campaign called Passport to Freedom and its online training program (www.sabre.com/ptf/base.html) is universally available. In June 2013, the departments of Transportation, Homeland Security (DHS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) collaborated to introduce Blue Lightning, a training program for frontline airline staff. Five airlines — Allegiant Air, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, North American Airlines and Silver Airways — have incorporated Blue Lightning into their training, and more carriers are coming on board with the program. Airline Ambassadors International, a nonprofit that works with airlines to provide humanitarian assistance to children, offers training for airline personnel and airport staff. The American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute has created a program for hoteliers. Individual hotel companies are also educating their staff. Starwood Hotels & Resorts recently made its human trafficking awareness training global through its online learning management system. Starwood, InterContinental Hotels Group and many other hotel companies include clauses in supplier contracts requiring suppliers to comply with the hotels’ own anti-trafficking policies.

Learn more at Kate Rice’s Travel Weekly article: The war on human trafficking.

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