All for one. One for all


The importance of combatting human trafficking and AAHOA’s role in helping educate the industry

National Human Trafficking Awareness Day is recognized each year on January 11. In recognition of this important day, and throughout the month of January, AAHOA encourages the industry to participate in #WearBlueDay on January 11 and help raise awareness of human trafficking.

January marks National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, spotlighting the alarming presence of this horrendous crime worldwide. AAHOA stands at the forefront, actively engaging its 20,000 members – alongside elected officials, community leaders, nonprofits, and businesses – in a collective effort to amplify awareness and support policy measures to combat human trafficking. While much work remains to be done, strides are being made, and AAHOA is helping to spearhead the fight through impactful initiatives and partnerships to save lives and protect hotel businesses.


In a significant move last summer, AAHOA endorsed the bipartisan National Human Trafficking Hotline Enhancement Act. This legislation, led by Reps. Laurel Lee (R-FL) and Kathy Castor (D-FL), would introduce more uniformity in the reporting of suspected human and sex trafficking by mandating entities that contract with the National Human Trafficking Hotline to cooperate with state and local law enforcement when receiving tips through the hotline.

“As hoteliers who are strongly committed to doing our part to stop human trafficking, AAHOA Members are proud to support Rep. Laurel Lee and Rep. Kathy Castor’s legislation to enhance mandatory reporting requirements,” said AAHOA Chairman Bharat Patel. “Hotels and other businesses, our local law enforcement, and all Americans must come together to protect our fellow human beings from the atrocious plague of sex and labor trafficking. We must be constantly vigilant to bring an end to any form of trafficking in our hotels.”


During the 2023 Regional Conference & Regional season, AAHOA took proactive steps by inviting state attorneys general and law enforcement officials to engage in discussions with local hoteliers. These state and local leaders were happy to learn about the BEST Inhospitable to Human Trafficking Training Sponsored by AAHOA. This training is 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.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, who addressed attendees at the North Carolina Regional last summer, applauded AAHOA Members in his state for contributing to the state’s safety and voiced anticipation for continued collaboration in the fight against human trafficking.

“I want to thank each of you for what you are doing by training your employees and partnering with law enforcement to fight this terrible crime,” Stein shared. “You all helped make North Carolina a great and safe state to live, work, and visit, keep people safe from crime, and protect our most vulnerable residents. I look forward to working alongside you all in the months and years to come.”

During his remarks, Stein, whose office plays a pivotal role in the Human Trafficking Commission, shared insights into their multifaceted approach. He has worked on legislation to combat child marriage in North Carolina and championed the Safe Child Act, which requires an adult who knows that a child is being sexually exploited to report it to law enforcement. Additionally, under Stein’s leadership, his team is training law enforcement officers at the North Carolina Department of Justice on how to use technology to investigate human trafficking, especially as it relates to the online human trafficking market and to child sex investigations.

In addition to Stein, state attorneys general from California, New Jersey, and South Carolina also showed up and spoke on the importance of collaboration with those on the front lines to keep communities safe.


In 2023, the AAHOA Government Affairs team also had the opportunity to meet with Arkansas Deputy Attorney General Ryan Cooper and explore ways AAHOA can assist in preventing this crime. The meeting addressed strong strategies and defenses, as well as Arkansas’ inaugural Human Trafficking Summit, held on October 16-17, 2023, at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock, AR. This summit brought together national and local experts to explore pivotal topics such as familial trafficking, trauma-informed investigations, human trafficking in the private sector, and strategies to strengthen public and private partnerships.

During the meeting between Arkansas Deputy Attorney General Cooper and the AAHOA Government Affairs team, Cooper presented AAHOA with an emblematic pin featuring Lucy, a K9 Officer. Lucy is one of 100 electronic storage detection (ESD) K9s in the world and the only one in Arkansas. Lucy is trained to detect chemical compounds found in data storage devices and will assist with search warrants to locate electronic devices that contain critical evidence for law enforcement. Lucy will also help the state in crimes against children cases and, in her downtime, serve as a companion dog for victims.


At last year’s AAHOACON23 in Los Angeles, the Association partnered with Covenant House California to help raise money and awareness for youth facing homelessness and trafficking. The event included a merchandise store that sold AAHOACON23-branded t-shirts, jackets, and socks, where up to 80% of the proceeds supported CHC. CHC is a non-profit youth shelter that provides sanctuary and support for unhoused youth or who are survivors of human trafficking, ages 18-24.

During a Town Hall meeting in Artesia, CA, AAHOA helped bridge the communication gap between hoteliers and their local governments. The Town Hall consisted of a panel discussion of district attorneys, superior court judges, Los Angeles Police Department staff, Los Angeles Sheriff Department staff, as well as mental health and domestic violence first responders. AAHOA also educated the attendees on the universal “distress” hand signal, which victims can use to convey their need for rescue and assistance in human and sex trafficking situations. AAHOA hopes to continue to replicate this model in future Town Hall events across the country.

As we reflect on these endeavors, it becomes evident the fight against human trafficking requires a multifaceted approach, involving education, legislation, collaboration, and compassion. AAHOA remains steadfast in its commitment to making a lasting impact on eradicating human trafficking, recognizing that collective efforts are crucial in creating a world where every individual is safe from the shackles of exploitation.


Comments are closed.