Explore St. Louis Joins the Fight Against Child Trafficking

Thursday January 16, 2020

By Explore St. Louis Guest

ST. LOUIS – As January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, Explore St. Louis is announcing its partnership with ECPAT-USA in the fight against human trafficking. ECPAT-USA is part of ECPAT International, a network of organizations in over 95 countries working to end the sexual exploitation of children. As the region’s leading destination marketing organization, Explore St. Louis is proud to join its hotel partners in committing resources to help raise awareness about this critical issue.

This is a form of abuse where people profit from the control and exploitation of others. The International Labor Organization estimates there are over 40 million victims globally - one in four of which is a child.

“This is an international problem, where predators are known to use hotels, airlines, and other travel infrastructures, as well as capitalize on the lack of awareness around human trafficking,” said Kathleen “Kitty” Ratcliffe, president of Explore St. Louis.  “In St. Louis, we are committed to a unified effort with our hotel partners who fully support our efforts to ensure we do everything we can to prevent this from happening in our community.  For those hotels which currently do not have a corporate-driven program, we invite their employees to take the training program we’ve put into place for our team members.”

Hotel associates are uniquely situated to identify and report suspicious activity. From check-in to check-out, victims and traffickers often exhibit identifiable indicators.  With proper training, a front desk agent or a housekeeper can notice that something is not right and respond accordingly.

As part of the partnership, Explore St. Louis has signed the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct (The Code).  The Code is a joint venture between the private tourism sector and ECPAT-USA to:

  • Establish a policy and procedures against the sexual exploitation of children.
  • Train employees in children's rights, the prevention of sexual exploitation, and how to report suspected cases.
  • Include a clause in contracts throughout the value chain, stating a common repudiation and zero-tolerance policy of sexual exploitation of children.
  • Provide information to travelers on children's rights, the prevention of sexual exploitation of children, and how to report suspected cases.
  • Support, collaborate, and engage stakeholders in the prevention of sexual exploitation of children.
  • Report annually on their implementation of Code related activities.

In addition to helping train regional hospitality workers, Explore St. Louis requires all of its employees to participate in annual training specifically designed by ECPAT-USA for the travel and tourism industry.  All Explore St. Louis employees must read and sign off on the “Protection of the Rights of Children Policy.”

“Through ECPAT-USA’s partnerships with the private sector, we work with companies that are directly affected by this issue.  Corporate travel buyers, travel management companies, and meeting professionals each have a unique role in raising awareness about child sex trafficking with business travelers and travel partners,” said Emily Becker, Director of Digital Content at ECPAT-USA, based in Kansas City.  “When equipped with information and resources, these individuals are able to signal that they are on the frontlines in protecting children from exploitation.”

ECPAT-USA is the leading anti-child trafficking organization in the United States seeking to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children through awareness, advocacy, policy, and legislation. ECPAT-USA is a member of ECPAT International, a network of organizations in more than 95 countries with one common mission: to eliminate the sexual exploitation of children around the world. For more information, visit www.ecpatusa.org.