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Empowering Hospitality Workers: Why Comprehensive Training is Critical to Combating Human Trafficking

Hospitality workers are an integral part of the fight against human trafficking, and having a staff that knows the signs to watch for and the proper training to react swiftly and safely is vital.
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Today, more than 27 million people are victims of human trafficking worldwide and up to 75% of them report encountering hotels at some point during these situations.

Those in the hospitality industry, including hotels, motels and resorts, have a responsibility to provide critical, comprehensive training to their staff so they know how to recognize, react and take appropriate action in these situations, potentially saving lives or preventing further incidents.

In this article, we’ll discuss the need for enhanced training programs and their crucial role in identifying, preventing and combating human trafficking.

Increasing Industry Concern Coupled with Greater Regulatory Compliance

Due to its anonymity, discretion and transience, the hospitality industry is, unfortunately, a targeted environment for human trafficking. Many hotel security measures make it easier to “go unnoticed” since guests are constantly checking in and out and almost anyone can book a room under a different identity. This environment can make it more difficult for staff to recognize and respond to these situations, which can leave traffickers operating undetected.

In response, government and law enforcement agencies have recently worked to increase individual state legislation that requires hospitality staff to complete training to help them identify and report signs of trafficking. A gap remains, however, as a recent survey we conducted at Axonify found that 63% of frontline hospitality managers are not currently training their staff on how to spot human trafficking in hotels or restaurants, despite 44% of managers being aware of current state-specific laws on training and reporting.

From identifying red flags to taking action, training is crucial to transforming hospitality workers into frontline defenders against human trafficking.

Recognizing Signs Is the First Line of Defense

Frontline workers must be able to recognize the subtle yet telltale signs that someone is a trafficking victim. Comprehensive training can help workers identify potential signs of trafficking, often seen as red flags in guest behavior (like spotting individuals who appear fearful, anxious or disoriented) and a lack of personal identification. Other signs include checking in without any luggage, unusual bruising or multiple persons entering and leaving a room after a short amount of time.

Through specialized instruction and training programs, staff can become more attuned to indicators and can better distinguish between a legitimate guest and a victim of trafficking. Not only will continuous training programs help employees suss out a trafficking situation but can also learn how to react to a situation with discretion and compassion.

Providing the Knowledge Needed to Act Quickly

Supplying frontline staff with the proper knowledge to act quickly and effectively requires developing strategic training programs that fit within their work parameters, learning styles and overall roles within a company.

When developing these training courses, there are three things companies should keep in mind:

  1. Deliver training in ways that cater to each worker on a flexible schedule that meets their needs. Leaders should offer various training methods, such as in-person workshops, online courses, programs incorporating gamification, or more hands-on options like scenario-based learning (SBL) with interactive scenarios.
  2. Cover what’s important, including the recommended ways for workers to engage guests that help to understand and assess their well-being. Tips for asking open-ended questions, details on the company’s specific policies on trafficking and any state-mandated requirements (like reporting to local authorities) should also be covered.
  3. Personalize content for each role so workers can identify issues specific to their day-to-day activities and workflow. Companies should customize training to address the unique needs of individual hotel staff members. For example, front desk staff and housekeepers require different training content from valets and restaurant staff. Additional local content, like cultural factors or geographical concerns, should also be included.

Hospitality workers are an integral part of the fight against human trafficking, and having a staff that knows the signs to watch for and the proper training to react swiftly and safely is vital because a right (or wrong) move can make all the difference. By investing in a well-structured and ongoing training program, hospitality companies can empower their staff to be proactive in identifying and responding to human trafficking incidents and help contribute to detecting and preventing this crime.




Josh Felix serves as the Director, Solution Design for Axonify. As an expert in learning, communications, and operations for both global organizations and small businesses, Josh enjoys the ability to change how companies around the globe support their employees. Focused on the 360º learning approach of knowledge transfer, knowledge reinforcement, and knowledge assessment, he assists clients in making the change and implementing this approach with proven learning platform tools. Data matters, and it matters in the overall implementation; with in-depth analysis of learning and knowledge data, Josh can ensure that learning is always evolving for the learner. With Axonify, there is a value proposition that enables the frontline employee in knowledge, communication, and execution! Josh lives in Peachtree City, GA, with his wife, Victoria, and three children, Mackenzie, Karter, and Wyatt.

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