by SEAN GROSSNICKLE
The U.S. government and organizations nationwide have doubled down on their efforts to combat human trafficking through pub-lic awareness campaigns, victim restitution, and preventative training. Back in January, AAHOA and others in the hospitality in-dustry recognized National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, which coincided with the 20th anniversary of the landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Months later, the industry again observed the World Day Against Trafficking in Per-sons on July 30. These officially recognized days on the calendar help to elevate anti-trafficking advocacy and action in public discourse, even as the nation endures the pervasive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has enacted a heavy toll on the livelihoods of many Americans. Human traffickers prey upon the most vulnerable members of society, which reaffirms the need for vigilant and continuous action against this crime, especially during times of economic hardship and uncertainty. AAHOA and our partners in the fight against trafficking remain fully committed to raising awareness of this crime throughout the year.
TRAFFICKING AWARENESS AND TRAINING
Human trafficking is a scourge to our society, one that demands proactive training and action not just from hotel staff, but from every level of local, state, and federal government. And while public awareness is on the rise, all members of the travel industry can work to maintain the momentum against human trafficking that our industry advocated in January and July. AAHOA offers innovative pro-grams to train hotel staff through our online Human Trafficking and Awareness Training (HTAT). To date, AAHOA has trained thou-sands of hotel owners and employees to recognize and report signs of human trafficking on hotel properties. AAHOA has established valuable partnerships with Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST), Polaris, and the Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign to develop and promote anti-trafficking initiatives.
AAHOA Members are aware of the threat human trafficking poses to the safety of their communities, properties, staff, and guests. Hotel properties can be targeted by traffickers, which is why awareness and training are so vital to hotel owners and others engaged in temporary lodging. Traffickers seek to operate in the shadows of communities across the nation. By spreading awareness and pro-moting preventative training programs to other hoteliers, advocacy groups, and lawmakers, the hospitality industry plays a crucial role in the fight against trafficking.
RESOURCES FOR AAHOA MEMBERS
AAHOA Members have around the clock access to free, online training resources that are invaluable to equipping owners and staff with necessary knowledge to recognize and report human trafficking. Training one’s staff is essential, yet spreading the resources to other hoteliers, local businesses, and community leaders can further disseminate awareness of human trafficking. Additionally, hoteliers can leverage their knowledge and experiences in the hospitality business to lobby for effective anti-trafficking legislation at all levels of gov-ernment. Human trafficking is a bipartisan issue, and politicians on both sides of the aisle have united against this horrible crime.