The U.S. Department of Transportation through Jan. 31 is accepting submissions for its first annual Combating Human Trafficking in Transportation Impact Award. DOT is giving out a $50,000 prize “to incentivize an increase in human trafficking awareness, training and prevention among transportation stakeholders.”

The introduction of the award program coincides with National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Several travel companies this month announced new efforts to do their part to end trafficking and sexual exploitation. According to the International Labor Organization, 40 million people worldwide are victims. One in four are children.

Transportation figures prominently in human trafficking enterprises when traffickers move victims,” DOT noted, meaning the travel industry is “uniquely” positioned to combat these crimes.

DOT is looking for “impactful and innovative counter-trafficking tools, initiatives, campaigns and technologies.” The Secretary of Transportation will select the winner based on technical merit, originality, impact, practicality, measurability and applicability.

Details including the process for submissions are available in the Federal Register.

American Airlines last week announced a partnership with New Friends New Life, a Dallas-based nonprofit organization, to raise public awareness and assist victims. New Friends New Life aims to rescue women and teenage girls from sexual exploitation and empower them through access to education, job training, financial assistance, mental health and spiritual support. 

AA along with many other airlines and hotel companies train staff. IHG last week announced that more than 2,300 hotels across the Americas completed anti-human trafficking training. The hotel company expects employees at the remaining IHG-branded hotels in the region to follow suit by March.

AA, IHG and many other travel industry constituents signed ECPAT’s Tourism Child Protection Code of Conduct or partnered with ECPAT-USA. ECPAT’s mission is to protect all children from sexual exploitation and trafficking.

A cooperative effort between the private sector and ECPAT, the Code is a voluntary set of principles for travel and tour companies. Participants commit to establishing policies and procedures, training employees, providing information to travelers, inserting related clauses in contracts with business partners, supporting other stakeholders and reporting progress.

World Travel Inc. was among the latest to sign on when it did so this month. New signatories during 2019 included Atlas Travel, Fox World Travel and Radisson Hotel Group.

An ECPAT-USA report published in September argued that travel companies needed to work harder on the issue. “Although great strides have also been made in recent years to train employees on human trafficking risks and how to respond, only one-third of companies surveyed provided training to their associates in the last 12 months, and less than half explained their training initiatives directly in policy or procedural documents,” according to the report.

Last year the American Hotel & Lodging Association introduced the No Room for Trafficking campaign and the Asian American Hotel Owners Association launched Human Trafficking Awareness Training. The two associations last week convened a summit on the topic. 

The event was scheduled in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl in part because large sporting events often mean an influx of human traffickers and their victims. For that reason, the “It’s a Penalty” awareness campaigns are designed to inform sports fans and the general public about the issue.

“A hotel’s front desk can be the first line of defense when it comes to saving lives and keeping human traffickers out of our communities,” according to AAHOA president and CEO Cecil Staton.

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