The hotel or lodging industry is filled with a wide variety of options and accommodations for its customers to choose from. Any budget and any traveler can be accommodated, from 5-star hotels to no star motels. With so many hotel options, customers and a steady revenue stream, I am wondering if the hotel industry is taking all of the necessary steps to combat human trafficking. Are these properties utilizing all of the resources to combat this serious issue happening right under our noses? The hotel industry is doing all that it can possibly do to combat the issue of human trafficking. This issue affects all of us and we must all do our part and remain vigilant.
The hotel industry is a breeding ground for human traffickers and every day thousands of employees witness manifestations of sex trafficking and commercial sex exploitation and fail to report. This is mainly because all too often because they do not recognize the signs when they see them. Many employees think nothing of the everyday coming and going of hotel guests. The signs often go unnoticed by untrained or unsuspecting staff(guardian group, n.d.). Victims are often checked or dropped off at the hotel by their traffickers at night or during school hours(guardian group, n.d.). They have very few belongings, clothing, and are often deprived of the basic necessities(guardian group, n.d.). The victims are often scared, lost, nervous and confused, and they will often possess any form of personal identification(guardian group, n.d.). They will most likely be inappropriately dressed, look unhealthy and disheveled and avoid eye contact(guardian group, n.d.). The victims may be accompanied by a person who acts as a dominant figure or by a person whose age difference and appearance is concerning, this person may be a woman(guardian group, n.d.). In 2018, the United States of America was ranked number one among the worst countries in the world for human trafficking(Keiper & Chiaramonte, 2019). The top three nations of origin for victims of human trafficking were the United States, Mexico and the Philippines(Keiper & Chiaramonte, 2019). “The United States is the number one consumer of sex worldwide. So, we are driving the demand as a society,” Geoff Rogers, co-founder of the United States Institute Against Human Trafficking. The demand here in the United States is so great that traffickers are filling that demand with an increased supply of forced sex workers. In our country, we have men that travel the globe to places like Thailand and other places in East Asia to purchase sex with kids. Brook Bello, is the founder of More Too Life in Florida an anti-trafficking organization. “We work with victims that are 3 years old and up,” Bello said. “The average victim that we work with, that’s over 18, started being raped at three. Trafficking in America, if you are trafficked in the United States, 85 percent of victims that are trafficked here are from here.”
One sobering statistic about human trafficking is that this filthy industry earns global profits of roughly $150 billion a year for traffickers, $99 billion of which comes from commercial sexual exploitation. And globally, an estimated 71% of enslaved people are women and girls, while men and boys account for 29%. Many reports seem to indicate that a large number of child sex trafficking survivors in the US were at one time in the foster care system(Pasley, J, 2019). The average age a teen enters the sex trade in the US is 12 to 14 years old(Pasley, J. 2019). Sadly, many victims are runaway girls who were sexually abused as children. In 2018, The National Human Trafficking Hotline received more calls from California than any other state in the US, followed by Texas and Florida, respectively(Pasley, J. 2019). And most notably since 2007, more than 49,000 cases of human trafficking in the US have been reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which receives an average of 150 calls per day(Pasley, J. 2019). Parents, guardians, and caregivers all need to be more aware of the social media websites that their children and teens are logged on to and with whom they are interacting with. More parental involvement and being involved in the lives of teens and minors and asking questions is a great start at the ground level. As a parent, I am constantly monitoring my son’s social media and who he is communicating with. My rule is if I pay the bill and you live under my roof any and all devices will be accessible. Without invading the privacy of our kids and teenagers we can as parents and caregivers do our part to ward off these predators and traffickers preying on our children. Too often we hear the statements like signs were missed and I knew something wasn’t right or I should have trusted my gut instincts. We must do our part as parents, guardians, and caregivers first and foremost and remain vigilant and say something if we see something that just does not seem right or ordinary. More has to be done to raise awareness on this issue and we must continue to shed light on this epidemic and expose those who operate in the sex trafficking and human trafficking industry. Throughout my time in the military, I have received extensive training on the signs of human trafficking, and this training occurs annually. Law enforcement can only do so much; it’s going to take joint effort citizens and communities working together alongside law enforcement to help put an end to this epidemic that is plaguing our nation.
The Blue Campaign was created by DHS in 2010 as a national awareness campaign to: (1) educate the public, law enforcement, and other institutions on human trafficking in the United States; and (2) to increase understanding of the indicators of human trafficking, and to appropriately recognize and respond to possible cases of human trafficking(dhs.gov, n.d.). Hotels, motels and the lodging industry, in general, have been doing more to combat the issue of human trafficking. Marriott International has recently collaborated with ECPAT-USA and Polaris – both leading non-profit organizations – in the fight against human trafficking to make their educational programs accessible in several languages. So far, more than half a million Marriott employees have successfully completed the training. Learning about early warning signs such as minimal luggage and clothing, multiple men being escorted one at a time to a guest room, individuals who cannot speak freely or seem disoriented and guests who insist on little to no housekeeping. Housekeeping staff is now trained to recognize a different set of indicators given their access to individual rooms. For example, they may recognize large stashes of sex paraphernalia and alcohol, dozens of used condoms in the trash, and large amounts of cash. They may grow suspicious if a room makes frequent requests for new towels or sheets. My Place Hotels of America has partnered with Businesses Ending Slavery & Trafficking to offer all hotels human-trafficking-awareness training. June 30, 2019, hotel employees and staff across all current and future My Place hotels began receiving certification through BEST’s Inhospitable to Human Trafficking training program. States like Minnesota have enacted laws that now require sex trafficking prevention training for all hotels and motels in the state.
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), in partnership with the Minnesota Lodging Association, created the Sex Trafficking Prevention and Response Training for the Minnesota Lodging Industry (The Minnesota Hotel Training Package) for hotels and motels to use to satisfy this law(mdoh.mn.us,n.d.). This year, California, a US state that has had a particularly high number of modern slavery cases reported, has introduced legislation this year requiring hotels to give their staff ‘awareness’ training about human trafficking. Lawmakers in our nation have to take a firm stance on this issue and pass legislation that will make it mandatory that hotels and motels incorporate human trafficking training for all employees and staff no matter their class or star rating. I am certain that no respectable hotelier wants these purveyors of human suffering as guests nor do they want to profit by providing a location for their illicit and immoral enterprise. But if they can’t see the signs, they run the risk of allowing this detestable practice to carry on under their roof. I cannot emphasize enough about the importance of staying sober and vigilant when it comes to human trafficking and being an extra pair of eyes and ears for law enforcement and more importantly our children and communities. That is one way we as a nation can begin to gain traction and make any progress on this issue. The lodging or hotel industry is making a valiant effort and is implementing changes, but it’s going to take a combined effort in this matter.