Five Ways Human Trafficking Training Can Help Hotels Increase Awareness and Prevention

a bedroom with a bed and desk in a hotel room

While human trafficking is not unique to the hospitality industry, traffickers often take advantage of the privacy and anonymity of the hotel environment. This underscores the importance of training staff to spot and report signs of trafficking — a crime which affects millions of women, children and men around the world.

For California hotel and motel operators, human trafficking training is now a requirement. Under a new law, SB 970, by Jan. 1, 2020, hotel and motels were required to provide at least 20 minutes of interactive training on human trafficking awareness to all employees who may encounter traffickers or trafficking victims. New employees must be trained within six months of hire.

Whether training is mandatory or not, all hotel employees can benefit from greater awareness of human trafficking and education. 

An effective human trafficking awareness training program should:

1. Explain what human trafficking is
It’s important for employees to understand what human trafficking is, who’s at risk and the negative impact of trafficking on individuals, organizations and society. Briefly, human trafficking is the illegal exploitation of a person with the intent to obtain forced labor or service, including commercial sex acts. Human smuggling is a related but different crime, involving the illegal movement of individuals across borders. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which is responsible for investigating human trafficking and promoting public awareness through its Blue Campaign, calls human trafficking a hidden crime that happens right in front of everyone.  

2. Raise awareness of different types of trafficking
Human trafficking, which includes sex trafficking, forced labor and domestic servitude, occurs everywhere — in cities, suburbs and rural areas. Training staff to recognize the different types of trafficking helps organizations identify potential trafficking situations and respond appropriately to assist victims, who often don’t seek help due to language barriers, fear of their traffickers, and/or fear of law enforcement. Training is also a way to dispel myths and misconceptions, such as trafficking always involves kidnapping or other physical force and all victims are women and girls.

3. Identify red flags
If employees know what to look for, they are more likely to spot red flags of trafficking. Beyond identifying the general warning signs, training should highlight indicators that are relevant to hotel employees and their specific jobs. For front desk, security and valet staff, red flags of potential human trafficking could be guests who appear distressed or injured, have few personal items, or pay with cash or a preloaded credit card. For housekeeping staff, it could be a “Do Not Disturb” sign that is constantly in use, a guest who refuses cleaning services, individuals loitering in hallways or minors left alone in a room for a long time.

4. Reinforce policies and reporting procedures

Training is an effective channel to explain the organization’s anti-human trafficking policies and reporting procedures and encourage safety. Rather than confront a suspected trafficker or victim, the better and safer approach is for employees to report their suspicions to hotel management and security, local law enforcement or the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. Of note, human trafficking cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline jumped by 25% in 2018 from 2017, marking the first year the hotline handled more than 10,000 cases in a single 12-month period. In a press release, the director of the hotline said the increase is “a reflection of the more targeted and better-informed efforts to raise awareness about the true nature of human trafficking in the United States.”

5. Be part of a comprehensive strategy
To be truly effective, human trafficking training should be part of an ongoing education and communication program to provide hotel staff with the knowledge and support they need to recognize potential trafficking situations, report their suspicions and help ensure a safe environment for all staff and guests. 


Andrew Rawson is the Chief Learning Officer and Co-Founder of Traliant, a provider of interactive sexual harassment training and other essential compliance and workplace conduct and culture topics.

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