Airbnb must face the facts: human trafficking and modern slavery happen in rented accommodation

Researchers estimate that there are 1.1m victims of human trafficking across Europe. According to the UN almost one-third of human trafficking victims globally are children. Cases of forced criminality, prostitution and labour are a major issue for the hospitality industry, as it’s thought that more than 93,000 sex slaves and 4,500 labour slaves are exploited in European hotels each year.

Hotels, motels, hostels and bed and breakfasts have long coordinated with organisations including the UNWTO World Tourism Network on Child Protection, Every Child Protected Against Trafficking (ECPAT) and the International Tourism Partnership (ITP) to address modern slavery and human trafficking. Organisations in the hospitality industry are running awareness campaigns, building toolkits, displaying signs and training staff on what to look for and how to respond – as well as coordinating with law enforcement and anti-trafficking organisations.

Yet reports of gang-related drug dealing and “pop-up brothels” in accommodation rented online have added a new dimension to these issues. Sharing economy platform Airbnb now has 7m listings in more than 100,000 cities, making it larger than the eight biggest hotel groups combined. As the company readies for its initial public offering (IPO) in 2020, the legal grey areas in which its hosts operate are escalating concerns about transparency and accountability – especially in relation to human trafficking and modern slavery.


© Photo: Without a trace. Yupa Watchanakit/Shutterstock.