The signs of human trafficking and what hotels can do
The signs of human trafficking and what hotels can do
23 JANUARY 2019 8:41 AM

Be aware of how to spot and deal with human trafficking activity at your hotel with these tips from a recent Marriott International training event.

NEW YORK—Hotel employees and managers need to be aware of possible human trafficking in their properties and act proactively to prevent it, according to speakers at a Marriott International-sponsored event last week called “A conversation with doers: Harnessing new solutions to fight human trafficking.”

Tu Rinsche, global director of social impact for Marriott, said it is the responsibility of the hotel industry to figure out the extent of the problem and take action. She cited an estimated 41 million people worldwide living in slavery, with most involved in forced labor or the sex trade.

Patrick Athy, director of human resources at the Sheraton Times Square, which hosted the event, called human trafficking the second-largest and fastest-growing criminal activity in the world, and said hotels must be extra alert to signs of trafficking, given their global nature.

Other speakers at the event, including some from trafficking prevention-related organizations outside the hotel industry, reinforced the need for property-level employees to be aware of signs of human trafficking activity taking place inside their hotels. Since mandating trafficking awareness training in January 2017, Rinsche said 500,000 Marriott associates have completed the instruction across managed and franchised properties in 17 languages.

She said awareness training like that being done by Marriott and other hotel companies has already resulted in several incidents where criminal activities were spotted by associates and police action was taken.

Here are 10 takeaways about human trafficking awareness and training shared at the event:

1) Watch for warning signs, which include excessive requests for linens and towels, intoxicated underage people, guests wearing inappropriate clothing, multiple men being escorted one at a time to a room, and other behaviors that seem out of place.

2) Know that most victims do not self-identify as victims and will not be the ones to point to their abusers.

3) Special events like sports championships are often a time when trafficking is heightened because there are many potential clients for prostitution and other crimes.

4) Hotel companies should be aware of their supply chain. Speaker Shandra Woworuntu, a survivor of human trafficking and now leader of an organization for survivors called Mentari, said she paid an agency in Indonesia that promised her a job at a certain hotel company. When she got to the U.S., she was kidnapped and exploited.

5) Get employees on board. Marriott held a contest to design a poster for on-property display and got a tremendous response, executives said.

6) Educate managers on how to respond to employees who suspect trafficking activity. Managers are the people who ultimately will have to decide on actions to take.

7) Industry cooperation is key. Marriott donated its training to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, which sells it and donates proceeds to anti-trafficking efforts.

8) Look for partner organizations. Hotel companies can help prevent trafficking by working with organizations like Polaris, an anti-trafficking group that offers programs in countries where many victims come from.

9) Consider the aftermath. There are opportunities to help survivors of trafficking who often have a difficult time re-entering “normal” life. Organizations like Woworuntu’s and others offer training in professional skills and also have plans to provide housing and other services.

10) Human trafficking can be bad for business. Athy said that if a hotel was named in news media because of trafficking, “it would tarnish our image and lose us the trust of associates and guests. It would affect the bottom line. We could also be held legally responsible.”

1 Comment

  • HotelWatcher January 23, 2019 6:00 PM Reply

    Nice job! A good topic that all hoteliers should be aware of and develop plans to stop it.

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