Human Trafficking and the Travel Industry

by Oct 1, 2014

This is a guest post written by Heather Larson, CMP which you can find out more about below. Human trafficking is rampant more than ever before, and I hope that this post brings more awareness to the trade and how we can use our roles to help.  – Naomi Tucker, CMP

Human trafficking, as modern day slavery is now called, is a $36 billion industry. It is second only to drug trafficking in profitability, it is neck and neck with arms trafficking, and it is growing. The term “human trafficking” is not limited to crossing international borders.

Half of all human sales are for the sex trade. 80% of the victims are female and 50% are children. According to the University of Illinois, between 16,000 and 25,000 women and girls in metropolitan Chicago are involved in the commercial sex trade annually, with one third of them getting involved by the age of 15 and 62 percent by the age of 18. This number includes not only the foreign born but the US citizens as well. Runaways and children from dysfunctional families are especially vulnerable.

Traffickers find their victims in many ways. Deception, coercion and outright kidnapping are common. The victims often blend into our society and you may ask why they don’t simply leave their captors and seek help from the police. However, the fear of reprisals from their captors in the form of beating or death to either themselves or their families, keep them from speaking out. Most victims have been so psychologically damaged by their captor, they no longer are able to trust anyone and no longer believe they are even worthy of a life of dignity.

Hotels are a preferred venue for this illicit business. They provide a neutral location for traffickers to sell their wares. Our transportation companies often unwittingly transport the victims nationwide and over borders. ECPAT USA has taken the first step in shedding light on the overall scope and impact of commercial sexual exploitation of children and the travel industries potential ability to fight it.

The ECPAT USA Hospitality Training program explains the risks human sex trafficking can pose for properties and provides a list of signs and behaviors that may indicate child trafficking.

By educating front line staff including the front desk and housekeeping of the signs of sex trafficking in their hotel, hotel ownership can not only eliminate this behavior in their hotels but help the police department identify and arrest potential traffickers and free the women and children they are enslaving. The ECPAT USA Hospitality Training program explains the risks human sex trafficking can pose for properties and provides a list of signs and behaviors that may indicate child trafficking.

Many hotels have already signed on to ECPAT USA’s training including Carlson Hotels, Hilton Worldwide and Wyndham Worldwide. For more information, go to or join us at the MPI Great Lakes Education Summit November 16-18, 2014. Michelle Guelbart from ECPAT USA will be our Keynote speaker on that Monday with a follow up break out session.


Heather Larson HeadshotAbout the Author

Heather Larson, CMP is the Director of Destination Sales for Meet Chicago Northwest, the convention bureau in Chicago’s northwest suburbs. Heather is a graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has worked in the hospitality industry since 1993, starting her career at several downtown Chicago four star hotels, then moving to HelmsBriscoe and eventually Meet Chicago Northwest. She lives in Des Plaines, Illinois with her husband and two children.




 Photo credit: Imagens Evangélicas via Flickr


1 Comment

  1. James

    Thanks for sharing


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