Sept. 27 was an extraordinary day for Sabre. We welcomed more than 600 people to our Southlake, Texas, headquarters, including actress Jada Pinkett Smith, to launch Passport to Freedom, an initiative to unite the travel and tourism industry in the fight against human trafficking.
Not many people know that trafficking is the second-largest and fastest-growing criminal activity in the world. This is a crime that affects up to 27 million people globally, including every major city in the United States. We often see it as commercial sex trade or forced labor, but in any of its many forms, it’s simply one thing – human slavery. Often the travel and tourism industry is an unknowing, and certainly unwilling, participant in trafficking activities. That’s why I am personally devoted to this cause and why Sabre is committed to taking a strong leadership role in addressing this issue. We touch nearly every aspect of travel, and that puts us in an ideal position to help raise awareness for this cause and help where we can.
Our Passport to Freedom initiative has three goals: to educate, collaborate and advocate. The goal at our Sept. 27 events was to generate awareness and understanding about this horrific crime through education and collaboration.
I am in awe of the overwhelming response and show of support we received at the event, and humbled by the impressive group of people who joined us … leaders from the U.S. State and Transportation Departments, the Texas Attorney General’s office, U.S. Travel Association, ECPAT-USA, Polaris Project, Airline Ambassadors International, Mosaic Family Services, Free International, the Dallas Women’s Foundation, the Dallas and Irving Convention and Visitors Bureaus, Southwest Airlines, Hewlett Packard, Hilton, Carlson, Virtuoso, The Travel Team, Corporate Travel Planners, Georgia International Travel, Ovation Travel and Nexion.
Actress and advocate Jada Pinkett Smith, who has testified before Congress appealing for federal funding to assist human trafficking victims, took part in several of our events, and we look forward to having Jada join Sabre and others in the travel industry to bring attention and solutions to the cause.
But for me, the most important guests in attendance were three brave women who joined us as survivors of trafficking and advocates in the cause today. Their stories and their path to survival touched me personally and every person in the room. It highlighted the brutality of this crime, and the harsh reality of its existence today. Modern day slavery is a real crime, impacting real people. I’ve never been so inspired and motivated to act.
There’s a lot we can do. On behalf of Sabre, I had the honor of officially signing the ECPAT Code of Conduct for the protection of children from sexual exploitation in travel and tourism. We also pledged to educate our 10,000 employees worldwide, and we began with a training session the day of The Code signing. We are committed to raising awareness among our thousands of customers and the millions of travelers we serve so they are better prepared to identify and report potential trafficking incidents. In addition to our efforts to end these injustices, we want to help those who survive or escape to rebuild their lives. The Passport to Freedom initiative will include a scholarship and employment program to provide job training to human trafficking survivors for careers in the travel and tourism industry.
As Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said in a personalized video he sent for our Code signing event, no one organization can do this alone. We look forward to collaborating with the experts and our colleagues in the travel industry on this important effort to effect real change.