Helping hotel owners and their staff prevent human trafficking is important to the Econo Lodge Franchisee Association (ELFA). That’s why they recently partnered with BEST to provide training at five regional conferences across the nation. BEST delivered Inhospitable to Human Trafficking Training (ITT) to help ELFA’s hotel owners understand how they can recognize and report the signs of potential human trafficking. Hoteliers were trained in San Antonio, Philadelphia, Joliet (Illinois), Atlanta, and Anaheim. The goal of these regional trainings is for the hotel owners to go back to their hotels and pass on the ITT training they received to their own staff who work at over 830 Econo Lodge properties in the Choice Hotels system.
ELFA’s commitment to addressing the issue of human trafficking was spearheaded by Manish Desai, ELFA President, who says understanding how to prevent trafficking is a current concern for hotel owners. “It’s very important to any hotel. We know this is happening throughout the world at hotels, and it’s not just hotels, but at gas stations, rest stops and other places too,” Desai says. “It’s important for all of our hotel employees to know what to look for so we can help keep trafficking from happening at our hotels.“ Desai has pledged to help prevent the abuse and harm that comes with human trafficking by educating ELFA hotel owners and their staffs so they can be comfortable talking about this topic and learn how to report trafficking situations to law enforcement.
According to Louis Smith, Executive Director for ELFA, BEST’s training program is relevant and current in teaching what hotel owners need to know about human trafficking. “Throughout the presentation there is a lot of information that is very new to a lot of hotel owners. The under-age element is especially helpful for hotel owners to understand. Many of them just don’t know a lot about it and how it’s dangerous to ignore a potential trafficking situation happening at your hotel location,” Lewis explains. “BEST’s presentation sheds a light on the problem, and it’s actual information that hotels can use. This training helps show hotel owners what they can do to avoid finding themselves in a role they don’t want to be in.”
Autumn Burris, the trainer BEST sent to lead the trainings held in Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Anaheim, agrees. “It was important for the people who attended my trainings to get the tools they could use to handle a situation that can negatively affect their business,” she explains. Burris is the Founder and Director of Survivors for Solutions, an organization that helps sexually exploited women through advocacy, community education, and public policy. She’s a former exploited woman herself who has 20 years of experience advocating for victims. Much of Burris’s work is dedicated to helping pass anti-trafficking laws at all levels of government, and making sure legislation is survivor-informed in order to truly help protect trafficking victims. She is pleased to see the recent legislation passed in Minnesota, California, and New Jersey requiring human trafficking awareness training be provided to hotel employees. Burris believes that many other states will soon follow in mandating hotel employee training as well.
Burris says BEST’s training is helpful in getting hotel owners to see the importance of protecting their business and keeping all guests safe. “It opens up an opportunity for hotel owners to have a real conversation that needs to be had,” Burris says. “They don’t want to have trafficking happening in their hotel, and they want to know what to watch for. They want to know what happens when they call the police, and what happens if they don’t.” Taking BEST’s training and having the opportunity to have these conversations is a good way to help hoteliers understand that they have an important role in preventing human trafficking.
Smith shared a story about one hotel owner in Pennsylvania who attended ELFA’s Philadelphia regional training. “She described an incident at her hotel where they had to call the police to report a pimp. This led to a great relationship forming between the hotel and the local law enforcement. After a few times of having to call the police for help, that hotel got a reputation on the street as being a place where traffickers didn’t want to go,” Smith says. “That particular hotel is one where the manager has been very proactive in training all of her staff.”
Providing BEST’s training at their regional conferences is helping ELFA’s individual hotel owners be able to have the important conversations to help them stop traffickers and work with law enforcement. This is critical for preventing human trafficking in hotels.