Human Trafficking in the Hotel Industry

Hotels have become a familiar scene of human trafficking crimes across the country. According to the Polaris Project, 75% of those who survive these crimes state that they have been involved in human trafficking in the hotel industry. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) also reports that hotels are frequently referenced in potential human trafficking situations.

Most traffickers often take advantage of the anonymity and privacy accorded by the hospitality industry. In other cases, some hotel employees are implicated in this vice, which is a form of modern slavery. In the wake of such events, justice departments, survivors, activists, and other concerned parties have started fighting back against human trafficking in the hotel industry. The chief target is hotels with any complicity in this depravity, knowingly or unknowingly.

What Does This Mean for Your Hotel Business?

In the recent past, numerous lawsuits have been filed against hotel owners, franchisors, franchisees, and operators in cases related to human trafficking. These cases are not limited to local hotels but also some of the biggest and most famous international hotel management and franchise companies.

The harsh reality is that human trafficking in the hotel industry casts a long shadow over businesses directly or indirectly linked with its associated crimes. As a hotelier, it is imperative to acknowledge that this issue stretches beyond the confines of law enforcement and social justice – it touches the heart of your enterprise’s reputation and ethical standing.

The battle against human trafficking in the hotel industry has numerous objectives. Other than punishing the perpetrators, there is also a huge need to eradicate the enabling conditions that allow this deviance to persist. This includes enhancing security measures, implementing comprehensive training programs that allow employees to spot signs of trafficking, and developing protocols for swift response to suspicious activity.

Training Employees to "Catch" Human Trafficking in the Hotel Industry

One of the most proactive measures you can take to protect your establishment is to properly train your hotel staff to spot the indications of human trafficking. Franchisors and hotel operators should have policies that enforce detailed staff training on, among other things, how to recognize signs of human trafficking in the hotel industry.

The American Hotel and Lodging Association Foundation (AHLA) has already developed an anti-trafficking training program dubbed “No Room for Trafficking.” The free anti-trafficking training aims to unite all hoteliers around one comprehensive goal of preventing human trafficking by training every staff member in the sector. More than eight hundred thousand employees have currently completed the training. Furthermore, twelve states now require hotel employees to require training related to human trafficking awareness.

Public awareness of human trafficking has increased over the past several years thanks to increased efforts by non-profit organizations, government agencies, and survivor leaders themselves.” AHLA states. “Within the hotel industry specifically, we launched the No Room for Trafficking campaign in 2019 – rallying the industry around the goal of training every single industry employee on how to identify and reported suspected human trafficking.” 

This training can take many forms, but the key focus is on spotting and responding to signs of trafficking. Traffickers often use violence blackmail, violence, threats, debt bondage, manipulation, deception, and false promises to entrap vulnerable individuals. Below are some of the most common indicators of human trafficking in the hotel industry.

Sex Trafficking

  • Requesting of rooms with a view of the parking lot
  • Paying for rooms with cash or a pre-paid card
  • Heavy foot traffic in and out of a hotel room
  • Inappropriate dressing, with relevance to the climate, age, or setting
  • Frequent requests for fresh towels and linens
  • Presence of excessive drugs, alcohol, or sex gear
  • Extended stay with few or no personal possessions

Sex and Human Trafficking

  • Signs of sexual or physical abuse
  • Zero or limited knowledge of past or current whereabouts
  • Signs of fatigue, malnourishment, or poor hygiene
  • No control over money, identification, or phone
  • Monitored movement or zero freedom of movement
  • Signs of submissive behavior, fear, or anxiety
  • Individuals asking for food or money from staff and patrons

Labor Trafficking

  • Individuals handling work that is not specified in their contract or without a contract
  • Staffers recruited through false promises
  • Working and living at the hotel
  • Guest numbers that exceed the room limit
  • Group transport to and from work sites
  • Deduction of exorbitant fees from paychecks
  • Minimal or zero pay

Collaborating With Law Enforcement and Non-governmental Organizations

Partnering with non-governmental agencies, law enforcement agencies, and other stakeholders is essential to eradicating human trafficking in the hotel industry. It can help create or strengthen a network that effectively counteracts the vice. A collaborative approach assists in rescue missions and victim support and sends a clear message that your business stands firmly against these deviant practices.

What Can Your Hotel Do to Spread Awareness of Human Trafficking in the Hotel Industry?

Other than proper employee training, there are numerous other things your business can do to spread awareness of human trafficking in the hotel industry. This includes availing informational brochures and posters in restrooms, lobbies, and elevators. The materials should contain information regarding the dangers and signs of human trafficking and how to seek help or report such activities. You could also use your digital channels, in-room literature, and guest check-in materials to spread such awareness.

Furthermore, it is essential to empower workers through policies that can help them investigate suspicious activity. The federal Tracking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) mandates that individuals who “should have known” of trafficking activity may be liable even if they did not know about the crimes.

One way to limit the risk of culpability is by using “Room Occupied” signs rather than “Do Not Disturb.” This way, employees have the right to enter guests’ rooms for maintenance or cleaning, allowing them to check for potential trafficking indications.

The Takeaway

As civil lawsuits related to human trafficking in the hotel industry continue to rise, hoteliers should take all possible steps to protect themselves and their guests. There are several ways to do this, including proper staff training, partnering with all relevant stakeholders, and spreading awareness about the vice, both within the hotel’s premises and online. In the end, the measures you employ should help limit your hotel’s culpability and help to show your strong stance against human trafficking.

NewGen Advisory frequently shares invaluable tips and industry insights that could help you manage your hotel business better. We could also help you sell your hotel or get a great deal on a hotel if you are in the market for one. Reach out to us today for more details.

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