Safe Travels: Protecting Yourself from Human Trafficking on Vacation

Jun 10, 2024

Vacation should be a time to relax and get your mind off life’s stressors. While you might be able to explore new places and meet new people, it also comes with some dangerous threats, such as human trafficking.

When people think of human trafficking and tourism, their minds tend to go to the Taken movie franchise. Despite being a dramatized depiction of human trafficking during international travel, the theme is not that far off. Letting down your guard on vacation is not far-fetched, as many of us do the same at some point or another on a trip. It goes to show that it only takes one moment or one time when we don’t pay attention to become a victim of human trafficking.

By understanding human trafficking and the threat it imposes, we can get a better grasp on how tourism impacts it and how you can protect yourself. Join us as we provide our feedback on how to travel safely in a world plagued by traffickers and learn how to recognize and report it to keep our world a safer place.


Understanding Human Trafficking

According to the United Nations, human trafficking is a worldwide issue that involves the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, and exploitation of people using force, fraud, or deception for profit. Over 49.6 million people are victims of human trafficking worldwide. Victims are not limited to one demographic, as traffickers target all genders, ages, classes, and nationalities. The most common types of human trafficking across the globe are sex trafficking, forced labor, domestic servitude, and forced marriage.

Through calculated tactics, traffickers lure in their victims and scare them away from seeking help through violence, manipulation, language barriers, false promises, and even romantic relationships. Victims then see exploitation in various industries like sweatshops, hotels, massage parlors, agriculture, restaurants, and domestic services.

As a result of being an underground crime, many traffickers hide in plain sight without facing repercussions for their heinous actions. Victims are left feeling afraid, violated, alone, and fearful for their future. However, many good samaritans seek to restore these victim’s hope.

Human trafficking is estimated to be a $150 billion industry that exists behind closed doors whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. As a community, our job is to be the voice for the voiceless and fight for their rights. Today, on a global scale, the United Nations and the International Labor Organization are actively working together to raise awareness in the fight against human trafficking while providing standards and protocols recognized by most countries worldwide.


Tourism and Human Trafficking

At some point, we’ve all been leaving for a trip when a loved one told us to be safe while traveling. Whether you’re a child, young adult, or adult, male or female, we are all advised to be aware while traveling. The fact of the matter is tourists are targets. From getting ripped off on prices for food or souvenirs to getting pickpocketed to even becoming victims of human trafficking, tourists are ideal candidates for traffickers to exploit. In general, traffickers tend to look for vulnerable victims, have a language barrier, and appear lost–traits common among tourists.

When people go on a trip, “vacation mode” often turns on, causing them to put their worries on pause and let their guard down. This false sense of security can lead people to trust strangers more or be unaware of local dangers. While being in “vacation mode” doesn’t always mean you will become a victim of human trafficking, it increases your risk of encountering trafficking or other unsafe situations.

Human trafficking can happen to anyone, anywhere. That is why listening to your instincts and practicing the same caution with strangers on vacation that you do at home is essential.


5 Tips for Safe Travels

Human trafficking doesn’t pause for vacation. Instead, it opens up more opportunities for traffickers. That is why you must remain vigilant. With what we know about human trafficking and tourism, it is crucial to practice safe travel tips. Help keep yourself safe by being prepared and aware of some of the best safe travel advice.

  1. Register with the Local U.S. Embassy. Before your trip, provide the local U.S. embassy with your travel plans and contact information. Know their address and phone number should you be in an unsafe environment. You can find the complete listing of U.S. embassies here.
  2. Do Your Research. Just as you research tourist attractions and places to eat, you should research travel advisories and local safety tips. Ensure to note the local laws and customs to be fully aware of your surroundings and what to look out for.
  3. Be Cautious with Strangers. While not all strangers have bad intentions, overly helpful strangers might be looking for ways to take advantage of you. Traffickers purposely aim to appear harmless and helpful, so don’t be fooled by their act. Ensure not to give out personal information like your full name, social media accounts, and where you stay.
  4. Stay Hyper-Aware of Your Surroundings. From the moment you leave your hotel, show that you know your surroundings and have your belongings secure. If using rideshares, verify the make and model of the vehicle and the driver’s identity before getting in. Additionally, when going out at night, keep a watchful eye on your drink. Trust your instincts and remove yourself from the situation if something or someone seems suspicious.
  5. Be Careful What You Post. In the age of travel influencers and sharing travel posts online with friends, sharing too much on a public platform can be hazardous. While it is easy to get carried away with posting every meal and tagging locations and hotels, it makes it easier for someone to follow your steps and find you. A good rule of thumb is to wait until you leave the destination before posting.


Recognizing and Reporting Human Trafficking

Traffickers are well-versed in their tactics and methods for targeting tourists. They can be sneaky and go to great lengths to hide their crimes. However, some signs could indicate someone is a victim of human trafficking. It is essential to take these signs seriously, as their life could be in danger. Some of the following signs are:

  • It looks like they are someone else is controlling them
  • Exploited for labor or services or sex
  • Doesn’t have personal identification documents
  • In poor health
  • Appears physically or sexually abused
  • Lacks personal possessions
  • Unstable living situation
  • Afraid of law enforcement

If you notice someone exhibiting any of these signs, it is important not to intervene directly. It is not safe for you or the victim. Instead, contact local law enforcement and the National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888) so they can handle the situation safely and effectively. If you can gather information such as a name, birthdate, age, gender, phone number, social media account, address, or country of origin, it can be beneficial for reporting. Your efforts can help save lives and take down human traffickers worldwide.


Final Thoughts

We are not here to scare you away from traveling or enjoying a vacation; we are the opposite. By being aware of the dangers of human trafficking, you can follow our safety tips and rest assured, knowing you are being cautious and in good hands. Combating human trafficking worldwide is a team effort. From the helping hands of organizations and governments to the eyes and ears on the frontlines, we all can work together to report and take down traffickers across the globe.

Bridging Freedom

On a local scale, our team advocates for restoring stolen childhoods in the Tampa Bay community. At Bridging Freedom, we aim to combat domestic minor sex trafficking through our restoration programs for rescued victims by providing therapeutic, safe homes for victims. Aside from providing services for victims, Bridging Freedom aims to educate the community about the horrors behind closed doors.

Through partnerships with Clearwater / Tampa Bay Area Task Force on Human Trafficking, Tampa Bay FBI Innocence Lost Initiative, and St. Petersburg College Center for Human Trafficking Awareness, Bridging Freedom can help provide victims with a safe place and connect them to necessary resources. To allow us to continue doing what we do, Bridging Freedom relies on the generosity and collaboration of our community of supporters. If you would like to be a part of our group of supporters, we encourage you to donate online at the webpage here.

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