The Starting Point: The Code
Once meeting and hotel managers are aware of the issue, what actions can they take? One important step is to sign what's known as “The Code” (The Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children From Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism). This document was developed by ECPAT (End Child Prostitution and Trafficking) in Sweden after the First World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in 1996. More than 1,200 tourism companies from 42 countries have signed (only 17 from the U.S., among them Hilton Worldwide, Wyndham Worldwide, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, and Delta Air Lines). Companies pay an annual fee based on their revenue for the year (50 euros, or about $65, for companies with revenues under $500,000, up to 2,000 euros, or about $2,600, for companies with revenues over $50 million). Once an organization signs The Code, it must report on its human trafficking initiatives annually.
“It’s shocking how few have signed this in the U.S.,” says Michelle Guelbart, private sector project coordinator for ECPAT USA.
But that is changing: In April, the Association of Corporate Travel Executives signed The Code at its Global Education Conference and is in the planning stages of education for its two international annual events. Sabre Holdings signed last September, pledging to train its 10,000 employees around the world. Sam Gilliland, Sabre’s chairman and CEO, is working to raise awareness throughout the travel industry, including as the keynote speaker at ACTE’s April 2013 meeting. ECPATUSA will also have a booth at the August Global Business Travel Association convention in San Diego as part of the GBTA Foundation's Project ICARUS initiative.
On the hotel side, Hilton Worldwide signed The Code in April 2011 and has spent the past two-and-a-half years training its managers and employees on what to look for in their daily jobs. “It has been very eye-opening for our team members,” says Silberman. “Employees have learned about potential red flags indicating illegal activities in their hotels and how to bring it up at a meeting or talk to a general manager. The training is tailored to the different roles in a hotel, she says. “Housekeepers will be seeing things that are different than what the concierge or the front desk might see.”