More than 40 million people are believed to have been victims of modern slavery in 2016, with many of them trafficked or involved in forced labour.
For some years now, Abta has been supporting members to manage human rights in their operations and supply chains. Next Thursday, October 18, is Anti-slavery Day in the UK, which aims to raise awareness of human trafficking and modern slavery. Abta will be launching new tools to help members learn more about the issues and how to take action.
Modern slavery is a global issue and a complex crime that is not easy to spot. Businesses from a range of sectors can be affected, and the travel industry is no exception.
Many products and services we buy or use can indirectly contribute to modern slavery abuses, as victims can be part of local, national or global supply chains.
Modern slavery can take many forms, including forced labour – which may involve confiscating identity papers or being forced to work to pay off a debt – and human trafficking. It has devastating consequences for the lives of victims and their families.
It’s also important to remember that it is not just something that occurs abroad – it happens in the UK as well. For example, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority suggests hotels in the UK could unknowingly be using a recruitment agency that puts forward staff who are victims of bonded labour.
The agency charges workers a fee for securing the role, any training and the travel from their home country, and those individuals are then forced to pay off the debt, with little wages and poor living conditions. This can happen anywhere in the world.
People in travel and tourism have an opportunity to detect, deter and deal with modern slavery in their business and supply chains, and are well placed to spot and report any incidents and concerns in the places they work. Just last year, a young girl who was a victim of human trafficking received help after a flight attendant noticed something of concern and was able to alert the authorities.
Companies can take steps to address modern slavery through policies and procedures such as the supplier code of conduct. Travel providers can also promote Travelife – one of the only hotel sustainability certification schemes to have reviewed its auditing criteria in light of the UK Modern Slavery Act.
Many countries have legislation that requires businesses to take action on modern slavery, and large companies in the UK must publish what they are doing about it.
Abta’s new online training and guidelines, which were developed with Stronger Together – which supports businesses in tackling modern slavery – will help members to develop their understanding of the issue and support staff to identify and report potential abuses.
The travel and tourism industry is well placed to play a part in reducing modern slavery, and everyone working in it has an important role to play.
Clare Jenkinson is senior destinations & sustainability manager at Abta