Hospitality and Travel Industry Commits to Combatting Human Trafficking

Fresh efforts by hotels and airlines highlight a dire global problem and ways to fight back.

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July 30 , 2019, was the United Nations' designated World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, and a number of major players in the hospitality and tourism industries marked the occasion by stepping up their commitment to the cause.

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines joined the ranks of several prominent carriers putting their muscle behind ongoing global efforts in stopping trafficking. The airline announced it had launched a mandatory online human-trafficking awareness curriculum for its more than 59,000 employees. The program was designed with the help of Washington, D.C.-based Polaris, which runs a national hotline and has trained more than 80,000 individuals, including those in law enforcement and corporations, since 2007 in spotting the signs of trafficking. In addition, Southwest said it would further assist Polaris and other anti-trafficking organizations with monetary support and ticket donations for survivors.
 
"Southwest operates on the guiding principles of civility and taking care of others with our collective Southwest heart," said Gary Kelly, chairman and CEO of the carrier in a statement. "We are proud to offer human-trafficking awareness curriculum to the entire Southwest team so that we can continue our efforts to identify any signs of trafficking that might occur within our industry. This commitment further strengthens our mission of being good caretakers of the customers and communities that we serve each day."
 
ECPAT-USA, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based nonprofit whose main focus is raising awareness of the human trafficking of children, took its fight directly to the doors of the meetings industry to promote the day by launching a new campaign, "20BY20." The year-long effort aims to train 20,000 event-industry professionals to spot trafficking through a 25-minute online course, which provides credits for the Certified Meeting Professional credential. Designed specifically for those conducting business events, the course provides training on trafficking awareness, response techniques and prevention tools.
 
"We are at a critical juncture in ECPAT-USA's goal to end child sex trafficking and exploitation," said Michelle Guelbart, director of private-sector engagement for the organization. "To have the business-events industry become a unified part of the fight against this international scourge by championing education is essential to achieving this vision."
 
David Peckinpaugh, president of Martiz Global Events, is the official ambassador for the campaign. Several year's ago, Maritz signed ECPAT's Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct, a voluntary set of business principals that companies can implement to prevent trafficking, then went a step further: The company created its own internal training program and last year made it mandatory for all of its employees. ECPAT's Code has been adopted by many meetings industry associations and hotel companies, including the International Association of Exhibitions and Events and
Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts, both of which signed on earlier this year.
 
The Washington, D.C.-based American Hotel & Lodging Association, which represents more than 54,000 U.S. hotels, marked the day by launching a public-service announcement to raise awareness for its "No Room For Trafficking" campaign. As part of that initiative, AH&LA developed an action plan for hoteliers to implement that included staff training on what signs to look for, how to implement a company-wide policy, coordination with law enforcement, and the importance of sharing best practices and success stories.
 
AH&LA also offered its own "No Room for Trafficking Day of Action" by partnering with ECPAT-USA to host training for local hotel employees at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill. In addition, the association said it plans to host a series of regional events throughout the year to raise public awareness and facilitate collaboration with policy makers, law-enforcement agencies and hoteliers to enhance its trafficking-prevention efforts.
 
"In the fight against human trafficking, the hotel industry is united in our commitment to being part of the solution," said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AH&LA. "By taking action to provide human-trafficking awareness training for our employees and the sharing of hotel industry best practices, we hope to serve as an example for other industries, while finding new opportunities to partner across the tourism sector and those joining us in this important fight."