HM on Location: Hotels learn new ways to stop human trafficking

LAS VEGAS — Attendees of the inaugural The Hospitality Show, held here this week at The Venetian, learned about the hospitality industry efforts on anti-trafficking efforts, with Marriott International President and CEO Anthony Capuano and Polaris CEO Catherine Chen sharing their insights and efforts. The inaugural The Hospitality Show event is held in partnership with The American Hotel & Lodging Association and Questex, parent company of Hotel Management.

The Polaris organization works both to end sex and labor trafficking and to support the victims once they are out of the situation. They have initiated the National Human Trafficking hotline as well, which has operated every day for the last 15 years since its inception. During those 15 years, the hotline has addressed 80,000 incidents and helped connect 35,000 survivors to services that can help get them out of their situation.

Marriott International has led the industry’s efforts in this arena, and during the session, Capuano announced a major donation to support the AHLA Foundation’s No Room for Trafficking Survivor Fund.

“There are lots of wonderful things that happen in hotels,” Capuano said. “Sadly, this is one of the not-so-wonderful things. This is an issue for the entire industry—it’s bringing our friends and competitors to work on this together.”

Chen shared that during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, calls to the hotline rose as traffickers adapted their recruitment tactics to be online.

Initially introduced in 2016, Marriott's Human Trafficking Awareness Program trains employees on how to identify potential signs of human trafficking, monitor situations and act or report on them while providing aid to victims.

In 2021, in response to the increased activity, Capuano said Marriott rolled out the second phase of training on how to give hospitality employees context and educate them on the new signs to watch. “Prepandemic, guests came to the front desk and associates could see the cues,” Capuano said. “Now, many of the guests have no interactions with staff, so the training needed to be modified.”

Chen said she is working to de-mystify the human trafficking situation. While a lot of trafficking looks like domestic violence, the training will help employees distinguish what’s really going on.

Chen and Capuano said the training would continually be updated so employees know what to do to engage law enforcement. “Traffickers are entrepreneurs: They continue to innovate, and that’s why we need to continue to train,” Capuano said.