Recognizing the Signs of Human Trafficking

Last month, two young girls arrived at an airport with a few small bags, ready to embark on a trip to New York for a modeling gig. When they arrived at the ticket counter, airline agent Denice Miracle noticed they had no identification and that their one-way, first-class tickets were purchased online by someone with a different name. She immediately felt something was off and alerted law enforcement, thereby saving them from a likely trafficking incident.

In 2017 alone, over 40 million people were exploited in some form of human trafficking, an industry that brings in $150 billion in illegal profits worldwide. With over 514 million domestic U.S. business trips occurring ever year, traveler awareness has the potential to create a meaningful impact to end child prostitution and trafficking. The travel industry is uniquely situated as the eyes and ears of ECPAT’s initiative, and as such, GBTA recently hosted a webinar to spread awareness of the issue, inform participants of recognizable signs, and explain the reporting process for suspected trafficking.

To kick things off, ECPAT USA Director Michelle Guelbart explained how travel buyers can make an impact through their choice of suppliers. For example, when signing a new contract, buyers can incorporate RFP language around whether airlines, hotels, or other suppliers have received training on human trafficking. By asking these questions, buyers can create awareness in a non-offensive manner, especially with individual properties or suppliers who may be unaware of the issue, and inform them of the avenues to seek training. Michelle also walked through some key signs to look for when traveling. While these incidents are not always easy to spot, there are a few things to look for:

Next up, Caroline Meledo of Hilton Hotels gave a comprehensive overview of the brand’s training initiatives to combat trafficking. In addition to making the ECPAT training mandatory to their 5,100-plus hotels, Hilton launched their own training about the risks of modern slavery and trafficking in labor sourcing, since many properties outsource their housekeeping or food and beverage teams. The training engages key-decision makers in the outsourcing process, like general managers, HR directors, procurement directors, and directors of finance, and looks specifically at outsourcing practices and the best ways to check on outsourcing agencies.

Similarly, Kirsten Williams of Delta Air Lines provided a glimpse into the airline’s efforts to fight trafficking, noting the importance of engagement from the C-suite down to the frontline. Thus far, over 55,000 employees have completed training in identifying and responding to trafficking crimes. Through their #GetOnBoard initiative, Delta raises awareness and encourages the public to join in the fight to end trafficking. The airline also offers a mileage donation program, allowing SkyMiles members to donate miles to help return victims to their families. Over 490,000 miles have been donated as of December 2017, and they have been used to help 38 victims.

At the end of the webinar, moderator Mitchell Stern provided a few resources and calls-to-action for various players within the business travel industry.

GBTA members may view the webinar in full through the Hub. These sessions are just around the corner:

  • 2017 Convention Replay – Five Forces that Will Change the Face of Travel and Travel Management (Wednesday, April 11 – 2:00 PM ET)
  • The Future is Digital – Are You? (Wednesday, April 18 – 9:00 AM ET) – delivered in Swedish
  • 2017 Convention Replay – Tackling Traveler Satisfaction (Wednesday, April 18 – 2:00 PM ET)
  • Safety for Female Travelers (Tuesday, April 24 – 2:00 PM ET)

The full schedule of webinars is available here.