by Elizabeth Lee, Volunteer Coordinator
For many of us, summer is all about traveling. Rest, relaxation, new adventures are all just a few of the things we enjoy when we journey beyond our own four walls. If we’re not day-tripping, we must find accommodations. We all have the opportunity to be vigilant and watch for human trafficking situations when we stay in hotels. Fortunately, many hotels and organizations are making changes to decrease a traffickers ability to use hotel rooms in their crimes.
Unpacking Human Trafficking
Much of the information we have about hotels and anti-human trafficking efforts comes from ECPAT-USA. ECPAT-USA is a non-profit organization that, just like Just Ask, has dedicated itself to ending human trafficking. ECPAT-USA partnered with the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) in 2019 to survey U.S. laws related to “the display of human trafficking awareness posters in lodging facilities, and the requirement that employees be trained to recognize and handle suspected incidents of human trafficking.” In May of 2019, ECPAT-USA released their study, entitled “Unpacking Human Trafficking. ”
Industry Players are Taking Action
This study reveals a lot of progress being made, as well as areas for improvement. For example, according to the ECPAT-USA study, Maryland has the following signage law: “Law enforcement is authorized to issue a civil citation to a lodging establishment which requires the posting of a human trafficking awareness notice in each of its guest rooms for one year if there has been an arrest leading to a conviction for prostitution, solicitation of a child, or human trafficking on the property.” Maryland does not currently have a training law. The study also reveals that Just Ask’s home state, Virginia does not now have signage or a training law.
Training employees is an important area where we are beginning to see more progress. According to the AAHOA, at least 38 states and the District of Columbia have laws to require some public agencies and or private businesses to train their staff to recognize, report, and respond to human trafficking crimes and victims.
Marriott International is a perfect example of the power of training as it has taken it upon themselves to train all personnel in how to detect the signs of human trafficking. Marriott has developed its 2025 Sustainability and Social Impact Goals entitled SERVE 360. Eradicating human trafficking is one of their significant SERVE 360 initiatives. In January of 2017, Marriott launched a mandatory human trafficking awareness training program for on-property staff in both managed and franchised properties. As of January 2019, 500,000 Marriott employees have received this training. We applaud their efforts and encourage more organizations to follow their example.
Just Ask’s Safe Zones
At Just Ask, we have developed our initiative to help in this area, called Safe Zones. We are proud of our Safe Zone initiative. The concept behind our program is to work with industries like hotels, airlines, and restaurants by delivering training and preparing employees to assist the victims of human trafficking. Just Ask has had success training hotel employees in the Springfield, VA area through our Safe Zone program. We will not rest until it has spread further and made an impact on the hospitality sector.
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