Skift Take

Sex trafficking and child exploitation is a travel industry problem, and companies need to be activists in fighting these abuses.

Airbnb expanded its law enforcement portal to nine languages as part of the platform’s efforts to fight child exploitation, the company said.

The portal, which aims to provide global law enforcement agencies with a secure channel to submit emergency and non-emergency requests for data about Airbnb users, now handles such inquiries in English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Portuguese (Brazil)  Korean and Japanese. It was initially available in English only.

Airbnb said it only grants requests to verified law enforcement agencies in keeping with its privacy policies and guidelines “when we receive a valid legal request or in emergency situations.”

The news about the expansion of Airbnb’s law enforcement portal came as part of an announcement on National Human Trafficking Prevention Day in the U.S. Wednesday that Airbnb became the “first home sharing platform to sign ECPAT’s The Code to help combat child exploitation,” particularly in the travel and tourism industry.

ECPAT partners include hotels such as Accor, Choice, IHG, Marriott International, and Booking Holdings in more than 100 countries that pledge to fight child exploitation. In seeking to eliminate such trafficking of children, signatories must adhere to guidelines covering “platform policies, supplier contracts, employee training, stakeholder engagement, awareness raising and annual reporting on progress,” Airbnb said.

While Airbnb may be the first short-term rental platform to sign on with ECPAT, several online and offline travel agencies, and other brands are also pursuing countermeasures to thwart human trafficking.

For example, Booking Holdings, according to its 2021 sustainability report, pledged its “commitment to safe, harassment- and violence-free travel experiences, as well as our approach to addressing the risk of modern slavery, forced labor, child labor and human trafficking in our value chain.”

Booking Holdings partnered with ECPAT to roll out anti-human trafficking training for employees and supply chain partners.

In 2021, Expedia Group said it participated with the World Travel & Tourism Council in publishing industrywide guidelines on curbing human trafficking and trained employees in a partnership with Business Ending Slavery and Trafficking. Expedia said over the last 18 months it has also worked with partners such as airlines and cruise lines, using algorithmic and fraud operational analysis, to help them better identify and take steps against human trafficking situations.

A Skift story in 2020 called into question whether various anti-child-trafficking pledges were effective or whether they merely provided favorable messaging for the brands.

Airbnb didn’t provide any data on how many sex trafficking or child exploitation incidents it has uncovered on its platform, although such guest or host reports are said to be rare.

Beyond expanding the language capabilities of its law enforcement portal, Airbnb said nearly 30,000 employees and partners have enrolled in training sessions to fight sexual exploitation, and among other measures it has a partnership with Polaris to make its global modern slavery directory more widely available, including in additional languages such as Ukrainian, Arabic, Tagalog, Russian and Malay.

“Child trafficking is still too common globally and all of us have a role to play in fighting human exploitation which is why we are proud to be part of ECPAT’s Code and share in their fight by taking these important steps,” said Juniper Downs, director of Community Policy and Partnerships at Airbnb.  “We are committed to using Airbnb’s global reach to support efforts to improve awareness, help those who need it, and assist law enforcement.”

Tags: airbnb, booking.com, children, expedia, hotels, human trafficking, law enforcement, social responsibility, vacation rentals

Photo credit: Hotels often end up being used in human trafficking operations. In recent years, many hospitality companies have implemented trainings to better help employees identify victims. Airbnb took steps to reduce child exploitation. yupachingping / Adobe

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