Jan. 11, 2020, is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, an annual opportunity for the business travel industry to review its strategy and initiatives to combat this grave violation of human rights. Human trafficking is a multi-billion-dollar criminal industry, yet a BTN survey of 164 travel buyers conducted this year found that 28 percent of respondents are not aware that human trafficking is an issue within business travel, and only 40 percent said they are aware of suppliers’ efforts to train employees and raise awareness of the issue in the industry.
Establishing anti-trafficking policies, procedures and regular training can help ensure that hospitality and corporate travel executives and event professionals—and their guests and clients—can recognize the signs of human trafficking and know how to take the right steps to report their concerns.
An effective human trafficking training and education program should:
Explain what human trafficking is
Human trafficking, which includes sex trafficking, forced labor and domestic servitude, is the illegal exploitation of a person with the intent to obtain forced labor or service, including commercial sex acts. Human trafficking and human smuggling are related, but there’s a difference. Human smuggling involves illegal border crossings, while trafficking doesn’t require movement. While human trafficking can happen in any industry, hotels and motels are more vulnerable to human trafficking because of the privacy and anonymity they provide, allowing traffickers to operate discreetly when staff and guests don’t recognize the signs of human trafficking.
Dispel myths about who’s at risk
Women and children are not the only targets of human trafficking. Anyone can be a victim—adults and children of any race, color, national origin, ability, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education level or citizenship status. The International Labour Organization estimates that there are 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally. In the U.S., Polaris, a nonprofit organization that operates the National Human Trafficking Hotline, said there was a 25 percent increase in human trafficking cases reported to the hotline in 2018 compared with 2017. In total, 10,949 cases of human trafficking were reported, marking the highest number in a single year since the national hotline began in 2007.
Identify signs of trafficking
A key part of human trafficking awareness and prevention is spotting the signs. For hotel staff and corporate travelers, there are different red flags, depending on where you are on the property or the department where you work. For the front desk and concierge area, red flags include guests who look distressed or injured, appear to have few personal items, or pay with cash or a preloaded credit card. For housekeeping, it could be a “do not disturb” sign that is constantly in use, a guest who refuses cleaning services or individuals loitering in hallways. Red flags in hotel restaurants and bars include individuals who are loitering or soliciting male patrons, asking staff or guests for food or money, or pocketing cash or receipts left on tables.
Explain how to report suspicions
Individuals who suspect trafficking should not confront a trafficker or victim. The best and safest approach is to report suspicions through the appropriate channels. This could be hotel management and security, local law enforcement or the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which operates a toll-free number, (888) 373-7888, and text line, 233733.
Encourage due diligence
Before contracting with hospitality companies, corporate travel managers should feel comfortable asking the potential partner about their anti-trafficking policy, reporting procedures for employees and guests, code of conduct and human trafficking training initiatives. And given the focus on combating human trafficking in the travel and hospitality industries, hotel operators and managers should keep anti-human trafficking legislation on their radar for 2020. More states may follow California’s lead in enacting anti-trafficking laws with training requirements. As of Jan. 1, 2020, Senate Bill 970 requires California hotels and motels to have provided at least 20 minutes of interactive human trafficking awareness to all employees who are likely to interact or come into contact with victims of human trafficking. Now employees must be trained every two years, and new hires within six months of their start date.
Regardless of whether it’s mandatory, raising awareness through training and education can empower employees and guests to recognize the warning signs of human trafficking and take appropriate action to combat it.