There are more human beings in slavery today than at the height of the transatlantic slave trade.

The human trafficking industry, which is estimated at $32 billion a year, is different from drug smuggling—once drugs are used they are gone. People can be used over and over. An estimated 21 million people globally are being held as slaves, according to the Polaris Project, a leader in the anti-trafficking movement. (Read about one victim and what she's doing to make hotels more aware of the problem.)

If you don’t think it affects meeting planners, think again, says Sandy Dhuyvetter, executive producer and host of TravelTalkRADIO and BusinessTravelRADIO and a board member of the nonprofit group Airline Ambassadors International, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the United Nations that provides humanitarian aid to children and families in need.“People think that this is happening far away in places like Thailand, but when you start unpeeling the onion, you realize it’s in every region.”

TravelTalk RADIO's Sandy Dhuyvetter 

The victims are not easy to spot. The signs are subtle: a glint of fear or hopelessness in a young girl’s eyes, an unusual tattoo on her arm, a little too much makeup, or a companion who doesn’t seem like the right fit. Victims are often drugged, or they are simply too scared to run away. Older children are forced to serve as prostitutes or pickpockets, younger ones as beggars. Sometimes they are even deformed—intentionally.

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They come from all over the world, with the leading regions being Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Mexico, South America, and China. But they also come from cities and small towns throughout the U.S., with runaways and at-risk teenagers, victims of abuse, and undocumented immigrants being the most vulnerable potential targets. You’ll find them at major sporting events, such as the Super Bowl; concerts; or trucking industry conventions; even the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.