Vacation is a time to forget your troubles and let loose, but you should always stay on high alert and pay attention to your surroundings to avoid human trafficking schemes.
Florida ranks third in human trafficking cases, according to Osceola County’s Sheriff’s Office. The three types of human trafficking to avoid are sex trafficking, forced labor, and domestic servitude. The most common places for trafficking in the state are tourist hubs like Orlando, Miami, and Tampa.
Human Trafficking Search put out a report in 2021 linking trafficking in the tourism sector and advises that big hubs for tourism should take steps and make institutional changes to protect tourists.
Florida mandates that hospitality staff receive education in anti-human trafficking awareness and intervention training. On May 16, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation to combat human trafficking. One of the bills, SB 1690, goes against hotels that ignore state anti-trafficking laws and would fine hotels that neglect to train staff to recognize trafficking signs.
The report also states that bystanders and victims are more likely to report human trafficking when hotels hang up and display human trafficking awareness posters, hotlines, text lines, and apps. To ensure safety, stay vigilant and know what signs to look out for while on vacation.
A critical factor in avoiding trafficking is being aware of one’s surroundings. A potential trafficker may want to isolate or come on strongly to an intended victim, according to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.
It would help to practice caution when driving a rental car or car with out-of-state plates. While not knowingly linked with trafficking, a trending TikTok had a young woman show a big van parked close to her car in a parking lot, only for it to drive off after she had an employee escort her to her vehicle.
Women make up 71% of trafficking victims, with men and boys at 29%, according to Human Trafficking Search. While women are more at risk, men and boys should watch out for sex and labor trafficking as well. Bandak Lul, a program specialist with the Office of Attorney General of Texas Human Trafficking and Transnational Organized Crime, discussed male victims with the Human Trafficking Capacity Building Center ‘Ask an Expert’ webinar.
Lul said trafficking services are female-centric, and there should be no difference in prevention, victimization, and support between male and female victims.
Avoid Wandering Alone
If you vacation with family or friends, stay close to them while exploring new areas. People are more vulnerable to trafficking if they are alone, according to Human Trafficking Search. If you need to separate from your party, charge your phone and establish a meet-up plan.
Have a Drinking Plan
If you plan on drinking on vacation, make sure you have a plan. Try to have one designated sober person in the group. Do not try to walk to your hotel or Airbnb if intoxicated, and do not drink alone.
Have a Travel Plan
Airports are big hubs for human trafficking, according to Human Trafficking Awareness Resources. Be aware of where your gate is, have your ID on you, and watch for security. If traveling alone, keep family and friends updated. It is essential not to be too paranoid while still looking out for yourself. Stay safe, relax, and pay attention to your surroundings.
If you see suspicious activity, report it. The National Human Trafficking Hotline is 1-888-373-7888.