By Michelle W. Jones, CMP

We’ve grown accustomed to this mantra, usually in regard to potential terrorism activity. We know to alert authorities if we see an abandoned bag in the airport or if we someone with contraband on an airplane. But there is another matter–one much more prevalent than terrorism attacks–that warrants our attention. That matter is human trafficking.

Human trafficking is a real threat in every country in the world and in every state here in the U.S. This “modern-day slavery” is taking place around us, every day. Men, women, and children are taken for forced labor or sexual exploitation. A $32 billion industry- yes, with a “b”- human trafficking is worth $7 billion more than McDonald’s makes in a year. More than a quarter of the victims are children.

Signs of human trafficking can be found on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security website.
ECPAT-USA is the leading anti-trafficking policy organization in the United States working to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children. I didn’t know about this tragic situation until I attended a conference where someone from Maritz Travel gave a presentation about it. Maritz has created a culture among its employees to be vigilant in the fight against human slavery. Airports and hotels are prime locations for this criminal activity, and the hospitality/tourism industries are in a unique position to be able to help in this fight, as is the parking industry with its eyes on the ground.

Whether we are boarding airplanes, checking into hotels, or operating parking facilities, we need to be mindful if we observe someone who appears to be traveling against their will. Does the person appear frightened? Does the person have bruises? Is someone else controlling their documents, movement, etc.? For your safety, and that of a potential victim, never confront someone you suspect is a trafficker. Rather, contact your local law enforcement agency, or call the tip lines provided on the Homeland Security website.

Michelle W. Jones, CMP, is IPI’s director of convention and meeting services.