Travel agents in Hawaii caught offering, booking or selling a sex tour would face felony charges and up to five years in prison under a bill.
Hawaii’s HB 2020 was prompted by a complaint to state officials by Equality Now, a New York-based organization, which said a Honolulu travel agency had placed explicit advertisements on a website offering the "Ultimate Asian Sex Tour" to Thailand every May and November.
"The individuals and businesses creating the victimization and profiting from the sex trade must stop," a Hawaii legislative panel said.
The bill’s sponsors note the global sex tour business is a $1 billion business and contributes to trafficking in women and girls in developing nations where enforcement of prostitution laws are lax.
Equality Now's complaint was against Melvin Hamaguchi, owner of Video Travel, which had a website offering the tours to Thailand for about $800.
Hawaii official JoAnn Uchida told XBiz that Hamaguchi had closed his business and shut down his website in October, a month before Equality Now sponsored a protest outside his home.
If passed, Hawaii would join New York as states with laws banning sex tours.
Earlier this month, two operators of a New York travel agency were indicted for organizing Asian sex tours, the first such case involving a U.S.-based company.
The trips arranged by Big Apple Oriental Tours were allegedly a way to solicit customers for prostitution rings in the Philippines and Thailand.
Douglas Allen and Norman Barabash were charged with felony and misdemeanor counts of promoting prostitution. If convicted, they could face up to seven years in prison.
Big Apple Oriental Tours conducted a marketing campaign that included videos, a website, brochures and customer testimonials for trips costing about $2,500 for seven to 10 days.
The brochure promised "unforgettable adventure vacations for single men to paradise.”