AHLA Foundation Shares Current, Future Anti-Trafficking Plans for Hotel Industry

July 30th marks nine years since the UN designated it as World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. This year’s theme: The Use and Abuse of Technology.
Michal Christine Escobar
Senior Editor, Hotels
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In 2013, the United Nations designated July 30th as World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. This year, the theme is: “The Use and Abuse of Technology.” On the United Nations website, it reveals that technology is a tool that can “both enable and impede human trafficking.” Unfortunately, the UN believes that “human trafficking has conquered cyber space” and that digital platforms have made it all too easy for traffickers to “recruit, exploit and control victims; organize their transport and accommodation; advertise victims and reach out to potential clients; communicate among perpetrators; and hide criminal proceeds.”

The AHLA Foundation has been very involved with helping the hotel industry realize the seriousness and scope of trafficking. In fact, it announced today a partnership with ECPAT-USA and Marriott International to launch a trafficking prevention training program for the hotel industry, titled “Recognize and Respond: Addressing Human Trafficking in the Hospitality Industry.” This new training program was developed by Marriott in collaboration with non-profit organizations and survivor experts. The program was donated by Marriott to ECPAT-USA and is now free and available to the hotel industry through ECPAT-USA’s online learning platform, thanks to the support of the AHLA Foundation. 

To learn more about the AHLA Foundation’s anti-trafficking initiatives, we reached out and spoke with Eliza McCoy, MPA, Vice President of Prevention & Awareness Programs. 

What are some of the Foundation's current anti-trafficking wins?

To date, the AHLA Foundation – in partnership with Marriott International, ECPAT-USA and Polaris – has trained nearly 700,000 hotel employees on how to identify and spot suspected human trafficking. We have also supported many major events and campaigns, including the 2022 Super Bowl in Los Angeles, where our combined public and private efforts resulted in the recovery of 14 children identified as victims of child sexual exploitation in the Los Angeles area.

Additionally, this year we hosted a one-day No Room for Trafficking Summit to reinforce our industry’s continued commitment to combatting trafficking, while bringing together private and public sector partners in these efforts to discuss new areas of opportunity to enhance these efforts. During the Summit, the AHLA Foundation announced a total of $1 million in donations from Hyatt Hotels Foundation, G6 Hospitality, and Extended Stay America to launch the ‘No Room for Trafficking Survivor Fund and expand the hotel industry’s ongoing work to support human trafficking prevention and survivors. 

With this generous donation, and further support from the industry, the Survivor Fund will equip community-based organizations with the resources they need to engage and support survivors – from direct financial support of their short-term, baseline needs through to career-related support that can empower them and set them up for stability and success.

What are some of the Foundation's current projects / goals?

The AHLA Foundation has worked on several key initiatives to bolster the hospitality arena. Here are some of our current projects:

  • Launching the ‘A Place To Stay’ ad campaign that highlights the more than 200 career pathways in the hotel industry
  • Advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as part of our five-year, $5 million pledge to increase efforts in hospitality
  • Allocating more than $1 million in academic scholarships for the 2022-23 school year.
  • Reinvigorating Our Empowering Youth Program with $175,000 in grants to 6 organizations.
  • Training Nearly 700K in Human Trafficking Prevention
  • Enrolling more than 1200 apprentices and adding a cook apprentice program

What were some of the highlights from your recent NRFT Summit in Washington D.C.?

In honor of this important program’s three-year anniversary, the AHLA Foundation hosted a No Room for Trafficking Summit on July 11 in Washington, DC to provide a forum where travel industry leaders came together with public and private sector partners. The featured speakers discussed emerging trends and areas of innovation as we drive forward our continued efforts to support survivors and eradicate human trafficking.

One of the key highlights was the panel that included organizations on the frontlines of survivor support, from training and education to emergency housing and financial empowerment: Wellspring Living, A21, and Safe House Project, alongside former Director of Human Trafficking programs at the Department of Justice, Bill Woolf.

What ideas for the future came out of the NRFT Summit?

The big headline of this event was the initial investment of $1 million to begin our work supporting community-based organizations that empower survivors nationwide. We hope this is just the beginning of industry investments in this effort.

We also heard from our public and private partners about the potential opportunities to further leverage technology in the industry’s anti-trafficking efforts. With an increasingly automated guest experience, what are the ways our members can evolve strategies for identifying and reporting human trafficking?

And there was significant discussion of the increased need for emergency housing and employment support for survivors specifically. Members expressed their continued interest in providing these tangible and often immediate necessities through the development of industry-wide strategies and resources.

What did attendees learn at the NRFT Summit on how they can stay ahead of traffickers?

No Room For Trafficking is an AHLA Foundation program that builds on the industry’s ongoing commitment and work to end human trafficking by supporting economic stability for survivors while continuing to advance training and education for employees to prevent and respond to human trafficking within the industry. At the summit, the participants learned about the latest data related to reports of trafficking, as well as the most current needs of survivors once they are identified.  

Is there any new legislation in the works to help with this issue?

To ensure hotels are aware of state laws around human trafficking and the requirements for their properties, the AHLA Foundation funded ECPAT-USA’s Unpacking Human Trafficking report. This survey of state laws targeting human trafficking in the hospitality industry provides a summary report of the laws in all 50 states relating to the display of human trafficking awareness posters and employee training requirements. An update to this report, via an interactive online map, is expected for 2023.

AHLA President & CEO Chip Rogers recently lauded Representatives Chris Smith (NJ-04) and Karen Bass (CA-37) for their continued leadership to end trafficking by reauthorizing H.R. 6552, the bipartisan “Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2022.” This important bipartisan legislation provides critical resources to strengthen and expand education and awareness to prevent trafficking, prosecute criminals, and protect the victims of modern-day slavery.

What is the next phase for No Room for Trafficking?

The next phase of No Room for Trafficking is to scale our awareness-raising and training impact, while continuing to increase the distribution of industry resources in support of survivors. In the year ahead, we are launching new training, growing our Survivor Fund and building an Advisory Council of industry executives to help shape these collective industry efforts to eradicate human trafficking for the years to come. Here are some key principles that we continue to emphasize as part of the current program.

  • Establishing A Companywide Policy:

As part of the program, the AHLA Foundation is providing members with a recommended companywide policy template that companies can adopt to ensure they have a comprehensive employee code of conduct in place and to ensure unified standards across the industry.

  • Sharing Success Stories & Best Practices:

As an industry, we can tackle the issue of human trafficking head-on by working together to share best practices to identify ways to build upon and enhance our unified response. AHLA Foundation encourages you to share your best practices or instances where your hotel has identified and stopped trafficking with us.

  • State Human Trafficking Laws:

Additionally, to ensure hotels are aware of state laws around human trafficking and the requirements for their properties, the AHLA Foundation funded ECPAT-USA’s Unpacking Human Trafficking report. This survey of state laws targeting human trafficking in the hospitality industry provides a summary report of the laws in all 50 states relating to the display of human trafficking awareness posters and employee training requirements.

  • Empowering Survivors:

Our work doesn’t end at the time of intervention; the AHLA Foundation remains committed to supporting and empowering survivors beyond the hotel doors.