Travel industry fights to end human trafficking

June 14, 2014 |

Human trafficking is a growing problem throughout the world, including in the U.S. More than 25 million individuals have been sold into modern-day slavery with more than 800,000 kidnapped and sold each year.

According to the Sabre Corporation, the U.S. is the world’s largest marketplace for human slaves with the most active transit unit being at the U.S.-Mexico border.

This $36 billion market is 80 percent female and 50 percent children. The Sabre Corporation said half of all human sales are for the sex trade while the other half are sent into forced labor.

In 2011, a human could be purchased for $1,900 and have a return on investment of $29,000, making the modern-day slavery second in profitability to drug trafficking. However, because humans can repeatedly be sold, drug cartels are beginning to add people to the mix.

There are 127 “wholesale,” 135 “retail,” and 98 “transit” countries for human slaves, according to the Sabre Corporation. Approximately 46 percent of those sold into human trafficking know their abductors and 42 percent of the individuals actively doing the trafficking industry’s recruiters are women. Individuals are being transported and trafficked via air, rail, ship and highway, making the travel industry an unwitting participant in this growing problem.

“Airports blindly provide safe passage to criminals escorting slaves,” the Sabre Corporation said. “Airlines unintentionally move minors, matching heinous demand to desperate supply, hoteliers unknowingly employ housekeepers trapped in debt bondage and travel agents are duped into booking travel for purchased brides.”

Only one in 100 victims of human trafficking are saved, but when the travel industry joins forces to bring an end to this disgusting act, more women, children and men can return home.

Identifying victims
There are a number of red flags that those in the travel industry should keep in mind for identifying victims of human trafficking. According to the Polaris Project, indicators can include the following:

  • Constant monitoring
  • Appearing fearful, anxious, tense, submissive or nervous
  • Avoiding interaction with others
  • No knowledge of current or past whereabouts
  • Treated in a demeaning or aggressive manner
  • Long working hours, tasks at odd hours and no breaks
  • Traveling abroad to meet a romantic interest for the first time
  • A minor traveling with someone who is not a relative or guardian
  • Does not know where they are traveling or where they will be staying

Airline Ambassadors International hosts an employee training to show crew members how to spot illegal activity and how to respond. The American Hotel and Lodging Association Educational Institute partnered with the End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT-USA), to raise awareness about child and human trafficking in the U.S. travel industry.

The Code
Many hoteliers, airlines and professionals in the travel industry have also signed The Code, also known as The Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism.

The Code provides the travel and tourism industry with awareness, tools and support to prevent human trafficking, more specifically from the sexual exploitation of children. There are steps that travel companies can take to protect children from being sold as modern-day slaves:

  • Establish policies and procedures to identify victims.
  • Train employees on children’s rights, the prevention of sexual exploitation and how to report suspected cases.
  • Include a clause in contracts with a zero tolerance policy of the sexual exploitation of children.
  • Provide information to travelers on how to prevent child exploitation, how to report suspected cases and on children’s rights.
  • Support, collaborate and engage stakeholders on the prevention of child and human trafficking.
  • Report the company’s implementation of The Code annually.

Companies that are members of The Code including Airline Ambassadors International, Association of Corporate Travel Executives, Delta Air Lines, Hilton Worldwide and Chicago and Los Angeles business travel associations.