Human trafficking, which involves using force, fraud, or coercion to exploit human beings for various purposes, including forced labor, remains a heartbreaking global crisis often underestimated in its scope and impact. Recent estimates predict that 40.3 million victims are trapped in modern-day slavery. A study from the United Nations’ International Labor Organization estimated 3.8 million adults and 1 million children were victims of forced sexual exploitation worldwide. And while this large-scale issue might not always exist in the direct purview of the general public, it is well understood – and, often, directly encountered – within the hospitality industry.
Unfortunately, hotels are often a breeding ground for human trafficking activity simply due to the privacy and anonymity offered by hotel rooms and rental properties. To this effect, it’s reported that 75% of US-based human trafficking survivors have some contact with a hotel or motel during their trafficking experience. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns relating to human trafficking are reaching a fever pitch, as the reduction of hands-on, traditional touch-points in favor of digitally-powered self-service inadvertently affords traffickers even more opportunity. With more hotels transitioning to mobile check-in/out and self-service kiosks, traffickers may be able to remain hidden while victims have even less opportunity to attract attention and receive the help they so desperately need. With this in mind, it’s more important now than ever before for hotels to refresh their teams’ understanding of the signs of human trafficking and steps that can be taken when an incident of trafficking is suspected. 1. Anonymous Payment Methods
If front desk staff notices a guest, likely accompanied by another person or minor, who is insistent on paying for their stay with cash or a preloaded credit card, this should be considered a red flag. Using a payment method like this maintains their anonymity and eliminates the proper paper trail of their stay and movements on property. 2. Do Not Disturb While it may not be out of the ordinary for a guest to turn-down housekeeping service for a day, a guest actively blocking hotel personnel from entering their room for multiple days should warrant concern. 3. Short Stays Due to the pandemic, there is a movement in our industry to offer rooms by the day to be used as a remote office, but you still need to be vigilant. If a guest requests the use of a hotel room for a few hours at a time rather than staying overnight, this could be a red flag. 4. Unusual Guest Behavior
If a hotel guest is accompanied by another person or minor who appears visibly agitated or nervous and has few (if any) personal possessions, this could be a human trafficking victim. Often, these victims are disadvantaged by language barriers or threats of physical harm, so it’s important for hotel staff to remain hyper-aware of unusual behavior and warning signs and, if detected, discreetly report it to management and authorities immediately. 5. Additional Guests Hotel staff should keep an eye out for unregistered guests who may come onto the property to visit a room that is rented by someone else. Moreover, if a registered or unregistered guest utilizes hotel amenities and begins entertaining a minor they didn’t arrive with, this can also cause concern. 6. Signs of Distress Suppose a guest appears to be suffering from malnourishment, poor hygiene, sleep deprivation, injuries/physical abuse and is continuously monitored by the individual they are with. In that case, this could also indicate human trafficking or other nefarious circumstances. Hotel staff should also take notice of whether or not individuals are dressed appropriately for their age/the environment or if their clothes appear to be lower in quality compared to others in their group.
As hotel brands look to maintain a safe environment for guests and staff alike, it is increasingly important for hoteliers to allocate time and resources to safety training, including human trafficking training and best practices. If human trafficking is suspected or identified, hotel staff should advocate for the victim by reporting their suspicions to management, on-property security, local law enforcement, and/or national human trafficking groups and hotlines. Hotels can also invest in a dedicated safety platform that benefits their staff and prospective trafficking victims by establishing a culture of safety where help is always within reach. At TraknProtect, our mission is to impact the safety culture in hotels for everyone at a hotel – the employees, the guests, and human trafficking victims. With this in mind, we provide hotel partners with the tools and processes needed to mitigate human trafficking. For more information on the TraknProtect hotel panic button solution, click here.