As the hospitality industry continues to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels, hoteliers are coming together to discuss the most pressing topics in the lodging industry including changes brought from the pandemic, evolving technology, and shifting demographics. Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST) had the opportunity to attend and present at the AAHOA Convention & Trade Show, run by the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), the largest hotel association in the world.
This year, AAHOACON23 was held in Los Angeles, and had nearly 8,000 attendees, representing all regions of the country. Today, AAHOA Members own 60 percent of all hotels in the United States, and AAHOA is making it a priority for their association members to learn how to prevent human trafficking at their hotels.
Hotels are vulnerable to human trafficking occurring for several reasons. Hotels are open 24/7/365, meaning employees can have trouble keeping track of the people coming and going from the hotel, especially with employee shift changes. Shortages in staffing have been felt across the United States from the pandemic, and this can also impact a hotel’s ability to be able to recognize human trafficking situations. Additionally, hotels offer privacy to guests, which can allow traffickers to operate undetected.
Violeta Vega, BEST’s program manager, presented at AAHOACON23. She said from her interactions with hoteliers at the conference that there are still some misunderstandings of what human trafficking is, how it affects hotels, and a hotel leader’s role in preventing human trafficking from occurring on their premise.
“Hotels have a moral obligation to prevent human trafficking, but beyond that, it is also in their best interest to do so. The risks associated with human trafficking can have severe consequences for the hotel and its reputation. Hotel owners work hard to build a good reputation for their properties, and it would be heartbreaking to see their hard work tarnished by association with human trafficking,” Violeta shared. By taking measures to prevent human trafficking, like training employees, hotel owners can not only protect themselves and their staff, but they can also protect the safety of potential victims that pass through their facilities.
While training is essential, there are other strategies hotels can implement to prevent human trafficking. Signage can serve as a visual reminder to guests and staff about the indictors of human trafficking. Additionally, signs can provide information and steps on how to report any suspicious activities or behaviors. Some hotels are even putting human trafficking awareness content on Wi-Fi login pages or on key cards. As automation decreases human interaction at hotels, signage is a valuable tool to help remind employees of their human trafficking prevention training and bring awareness to guests.
Training employees to identify and report potential human trafficking situations remains a critical component of any successful prevention strategy. By combining signage with well-trained staff, hotels can create a comprehensive and effective approach to combat human trafficking, and BEST was pleased to be able to bring this important message and training to more hoteliers at AAHOACON23.