From the Tallahassee Democrat (opinion piece by Karina Perez):
“Florida is a family-friendly state.
When people think of Florida, their faces light up, picturing the stunning blue water, sandy beaches, and of course, the spectacular rides at our world-renowned attractions.
In fact, Walt Disney World in Orlando is rated the No. 1 family vacation destination in the United States. TripAdvisor includes Florida’s Space Coast, Winter Haven, and St. Augustine on their 20 Best All-American Family Vacations of 2017.
Florida lives and breathes tourism – it’s a $110-billion industry. But Florida’s not just attracting adventuring young adults, retired snowbirds, and honeymooning couples — it’s largely a hot spot for young families. For children.
But as much as these hot spots appeal to young families, they also inevitably invite predators. Human traffickers are drawn to the hospitality industry in tourist hubs like Florida for the “privacy and anonymity” they offer.
In places like Orlando, Miami and Tampa, traffickers hide in plain sight. People are preoccupied, they’re not looking for suspicious activity. No, they’re thinking about the next stop on their list of things to do. Added to that, employees of hotels and restaurants aren’t trained to see the signs or worse, deliberately aren’t paying attention.
Either willfully or unintentionally, Florida’s tourism industry is ignoring this problem.
So while Florida is one of the U.S.’s top vacation destinations, it’s also the country’s third biggest hotbed for human trafficking. Amidst the families enjoying their vacations, playing in the pool, going on rides, and watching parades are people paying to exploit and abuse children in locked in hotel rooms.”