AAHOA Members lead the fight against human trafficking
January is designated National Human Trafficking Prevention Month by presidential proclamation, a time for individuals and businesses to raise awareness, educate, and prevent human trafficking. As an organization representing nearly 20,000 hotel owners who own 60% of the hotels in the U.S., AAHOA has long been at the forefront of the hospitality industry’s battle against human trafficking.
DATA BEHIND TRAFFICKING
According to the Polaris Project, a nonprofit organization combating and preventing human trafficking in the U.S., 10,583 situations of human trafficking were reported to the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline involving 16,658 individual victims in 2020. This statistic is staggering, and it shows that traffickers kept this horrible crime going amid the COVID-19 lockdowns. Recent research from the Polaris Project also indicates that the internet has become a top recruitment location for all forms of trafficking, with Facebook and Instagram being the most common sites for this crime to occur.
On top of online recruitment, traffickers continue to use hotels and motels to exploit their victims, taking advantage of accessibility, the ability to pay in cash, and remain anonymous. Data from the National Human Trafficking Hotline shows that at least 6.8% of human trafficking cases reported in 2020 were based in hotels or motels. These statistics indicate that hoteliers are in a prime position to help fight against this horrendous crime. That’s why AAHOA offers Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST) Inhospitable to Human Trafficking Training, Sponsored by AAHOA. It’s completely free and available online 24/7/365 for all AAHOA Members and their employees. Thousands of hospitality employees have already completed this human trafficking awareness training.
HOW AAHOA MEMBERS ARE RESPONDING
AAHOA Members are taking an active role in preventing the illegal exploitation of individuals on their hotel properties, including Vice Chairman Bharat Patel and Central Midwest Regional Director Arti Patel. For years, Bharat has used his human trafficking knowledge to spread awareness and work closely with law enforcement. In 2019, he helped law enforcement in the City of Sarasota with a reverse sting operation to catch a trafficker.
“They wanted me to give a couple of rooms so they could run a reverse sting operation,” Bharat shared. “They didn’t make the papers, and we did not promote it. But they got somebody off the street who was trafficking human beings.”
“Many times, for law enforcement and business owners, our successes are more private. The failures might be public, but our successes tend to fly under the radar. We should always look for ways to do a little to improve our community, and this is part of it.”
No matter how big or small, these efforts can save lives and protect your businesses. Over in the Central Midwest Region, Arti and her hotel staff have stepped in to help victims of human trafficking.
“We had an incident where a woman came into the hotel and was very frightened. She was running. Our employee gave her a room, and we called law enforcement,” Arti explained. “If it weren’t for the training and advocacy, it would’ve been tough to understand what was happening that night.”
These situations, and the millions happening worldwide and online, are some of the reasons AAHOA has worked diligently to help hotel staff look out for warning signs.
“I have done the training on more than one occasion, and I would encourage people to take it with their team members and fellow hotel owners and operators,” Bharat said. “Also, for new employees and new team members who start in your business, make sure they’re involved also.”
“We sometimes get blinded about what human trafficking is. We speak about fraudulent activities when it comes to bank cards. We speak about drugs, and we even speak about domestic violence,” Arti explained. “But human trafficking is very, very widespread. Hoteliers must know the importance of what we’re trying to fight.”
KNOW THE LAWS IN YOUR STATE OR AREA
Several states have required and encouraged human trafficking training or the posting of the National Human Trafficking Hotline information in hotels. Below are the 10 states that currently require human trafficking awareness training:
- California, Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey, Florida, Iowa, North Dakota, Texas, Illinois, and Maryland. This training helps hotel staff spot the signs and make a difference in the community.
AAHOA’s 2022 Human Trafficking Awareness Training Efforts
- 1,000+people completed online training in 21 states.
- 200+ people attended training sessions at 8 AAHOA Regional Conferences & Trade Shows.