A Special Presentation – ECPAT USA
On Thursday, April 4, Tisch Center students and faculty gathered for a special lecture about a very important issue. Representatives from ECPAT USA (End Child Prostitution and Trafficking), a children’s rights organization with a mission to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children, gave a presentation on the issue of human trafficking in the United States and its relationship to tourism and hospitality. Here is a summary of the discussion facilitated by Michelle Guelbart, MSW.
Human trafficking is one of the most atrocious human rights violations of the current generation. It generates as much as $32 billion, making it the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry after drug trafficking. The issue affects children especially because of their vulnerabilities, as evidenced by the fact that an estimated 1.2 million children are trafficked worldwide. While many in the United States perceive human trafficking to be a problem of developing countries, human trafficking in the U.S. is no less severe with 100,000 to 300,000 American youths running the risk of being trafficked each year, and 25% of child sex tourists comprising of North Americans.
Private Sector Project Coordinator, Michelle Guelbart with Dean Bjorn Hanson
Perpetrators of commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) have used hotels as the location for their crime as traffickers believe that hotels lend anonymity. With the use of online classified advertisements, CSEC has moved from the streets to behind closed hotel room doors where children are sold repeatedly. Statistics have now shown that 44% of child victims in NYC were exploited in hotels. Increasing pressure is being placed on the tourism and hotel industry by legislators, investors, the current administration, and consumers. One example is a 2012 campaign by U.K.- and U.S.-based investors seeking human trafficking policy information from hospitality and hotel brands prior to the London Olympics.
Activities that hospitality and hotel companies are being asked to undertake cover three major areas. First, brands are asked to draft policies against human trafficking and CSEC in their properties. Second, companies are urged to train workers to identify and respond to signs of exploitation. Last, they are encouraged to inform suppliers and contractors about anti-human trafficking and anti-CSEC policies put in place. One initiative that has emerged to support the industry in addressing the issue is the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct or “The Code.” The Code (www.thecode.org) is an industry-driven initiative with a mission to provide awareness, tools, and support to industry members to combat and prevent the sexual exploitation of children. To-date, several major brands have become The Code signatories. These brands include Wyndham Worldwide, Carlson Companies, Hilton Worldwide, Delta Airlines, Real Hospitality Group, and Sabre Holdings.
There are a number of benefits of taking action to prevent and mitigate human trafficking including practical and risk management. By addressing the topic, brands can guard against legal, reputational, and operational risks.
In the same way that it is both ethical and beneficial for hospitality and hotel companies to answer the call to action, hospitality and tourism education programs are in a most advantageous position to raise awareness of future industry professionals regarding human trafficking and CSEC. Ensuring that there is more issue discussion and incorporating the topic in the curriculum are some of the ways to do so. Students can also advocate for innovative ways to equip their peers to tackle this human rights violation as agents of change in the industry.
Michelle Guelbart, MSW, Private Sector Project Coordinator, ECPAT-USA, manages relationships with corporations, NGOs, and responsible investors to encourage and provide technical assistance on corporate social responsibility initiatives to protect children. Michelle has also published papers on mitigating the risk of trafficking in the travel industry. She holds a Master’s Degree from Columbia University’s School of Social Work and a Bachelor’s Degree from the University at Albany. For more information visit www.ecpatusa.org or contact the presenter, ECPAT-USA’s Private Sector Project Coordinator Michelle Guelbart: email@example.com.
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