AAHOA CHAIRMAN (2021-2021)
The social and economic hardships our nation endured have increased vulnerabilities and openings to exploitation, both in our businesses and our communities. Polaris, an AAHOA partner in our anti-human trafficking efforts, reported rising cases of trafficking in the United States brought about by the adverse conditions of the pandemic. In recognition of National Slavery & Human Trafficking Prevention Month, AAHOA is redoubling our efforts to engage our members, their staff, and guests in the fight against human trafficking.
Although state and federal awareness of human trafficking has increased, continuous work is needed to address this detestable crime. In recent months, Florida and Texas joined eight other states that have passed legislation requiring lodging establishments to train staff in human trafficking awareness and prevention programs. Together with Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST), we offer no-cost training for AAHOA Members and their staffs through BEST Inhospitable to Human Trafficking sponsored by AAHOA. Available in English or Spanish, our training program is proven to increase the reporting of human trafficking incidents.
In 2019, researchers from Arizona State University found that 97 percent of hotel employees who took this training said it will help prevent sex trafficking incidents. Education and prevention are effective ways for hotels to serve as a frontline asset in the fight against trafficking. AAHOA has trained thousands of hotel owners and their staff in-person and online to date, yet our efforts will continue to ensure that the entirety of our industry is well-versed to identify, report, and prevent human trafficking.
With the new year comes a renewed optimism for the future. As hoteliers, turning the page on a historically challenging year provides a brief respite from the winding road to recovery that lies ahead. Over the course of the pandemic, we have learned ways to address operational challenges, enforce health and safety guidelines, and communicate with lenders, politicians, and our fellow hoteliers to keep our doors open. We can apply the resiliency and adaptability shown in the past months to advance our efforts in the fight against human trafficking.
AAHOA advocates for industry-wide engagement and participation in anti-human trafficking training for all hotels in every state, even if it has yet to be mandated by law. Above all, guest safety is imperative. And the concerning rise of human trafficking cases during the pandemic cannot be overlooked. While we work to rebuild our businesses and return to normalcy, we will redouble our efforts to protect our guests and our communities.