Written by Casey Berman and Edited by Emilee Kain
In a January press release, Airbnb announced its partnership with It’s a Penalty, an organization that strives to “[contribute] to the elimination of modern-day slavery” (IAP Mission Statement). Working together, the goal of these two companies was to increase awareness for workers in the hospitality industry about the dangers of ignoring signs of human and sex trafficking at their places of work.
During the beginning of the collaboration in 2021, most of their efforts were centered in and around Tampa, Florida because the Super Bowl would be held there in a matter of months. Due to the huge amount of popularity and attention that the Super Bowl garners, there was a predicted incoming influx of tourists to the area. At the time, the State of Florida also had the third-highest rate of human trafficking in the U.S. when measured by state (Hospitality Net). In Florida's Attorney General Ashley Moody’s announcement on the partnership between Airbnb and It’s a Penalty and what it would do for Florida, she stated that “Hosting the Super Bowl is a huge economic boom for our state, but the possibility of quick cash from out-of-state visitors can also bring out criminals- like human traffickers who profit from trafficking men, women, and children” (Hospitality Net). Airbnb and It’s a Penalty worked together to train hotel and service employees in watching for potential red flags or signs that people can exhibit if they are being trafficked or held against their will (USA Today). Through this alliance, Airbnb continues to exhibit its efforts to reduce sex trafficking in rentals. Additionally, this collaboration with It’s a Penalty is not the only time Airbnb has shown its desire to continue to aid victims in the fight against human trafficking. Airbnb has partnered with anti-trafficking companies before, such as in the case of their ongoing partnership with Polaris which has been in place since 2018.
Polaris is a nonprofit which works to end trafficking throughout the entirety of North America. In the past, Airbnb has been a hotspot for domestic and foreign sex trafficking (Global Citizen). According to a 2018 study performed by the Human Trafficking Institute of Virginia, 81.5% of 383 examined occurrences of sex trafficking in the U.S took place at a hotel (USA Today). Motels, hotels, and rentals are common sites for human trafficking and other sex crimes to take place at because of the ease with which traffickers can rent rooms, the reduced expenditure of finances such as upkeep or utilities, and the decreased risk that their crimes can be traced back to them (Human Trafficking Hotline).
Airbnb’s ongoing collaboration with Polaris strives to utilize both in-person and virtual training to continue to educate and inform Airbnb hosts, patrons, and employees about the dangers of trafficking. They will persist in working on systems to identify and flag signs of human and sex trafficking before or while it is happening, while at the same time continuing to respect the privacy of their guests and employees (Airbnb News). While the fight against human trafficking is still continuing in full force, companies like Airbnb taking steps to continue the battle is necessary and important to show support and provide hope for victims and survivors all around the world.
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