Home Publisher's Point of View The Hospitality Show & Marriott’s Trafficking Survivor Fund Announcement

The Hospitality Show & Marriott’s Trafficking Survivor Fund Announcement

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Glenn Hasek

I just returned from The Hospitality Show in Las Vegas this past week. An AHLA/Questex conference and trade show, the event drew more than 3,500 attendees and 300 vendors. The event will return next year but in San Antonio in October. At least 70 to 80 of the vendors fell directly into the sustainability space—impressive to me and proof of how far our industry has come in recent years. Sustainability was also a frequent topic in the conference sessions.

The biggest news coming out of the conference was announced during a session entitled, “The Hospitality Industry v. Human Trafficking: Marriott and Polaris on Current Trends and Actions to Take.” The session was moderated by Chip Rogers, President & CEO, AHLA and included Catherine Chen, CEO, Polaris, and Anthony Capuano, President and CEO, Marriott International, Inc.

Capuano announced that the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation and Marriott International have joined to contribute $550,000 to support the AHLA Foundation’s No Room for Trafficking (NRFT) Survivor Fund. This contribution increases the Fund to $3.4 million since its launch less than a year ago and will be used for grants to community-based organizations that provide financial support and stability to human trafficking survivors. The AHLA Foundation will award its first grants in July. Rogers said the AHLA Foundation will kick in an additional $5 million once the Fund reaches that amount.

The AHLA Foundation’s No Room for Trafficking program aims to unite the hospitality industry around its collective anti-trafficking efforts through training, education, and survivor support. Learn more about NRFT here.

Mandatory Trafficking Training

The announcement came just before the Virginia Department of Health’s July 1 launch of the enforcement of House Bill 258 (Hotels; human trafficking training). The act requires that every hotel proprietor require its employees to complete a human trafficking training course developed by the Department or an alternative online or in-person training course approved by the Department within six months of being employed by a hotel and thereafter at least once every two years, for as long as the employee is employed by the hotel.

The conference session, the Marriott announcement, and the Virginia bill are just a few examples among many of how seriously our industry, and government, are taking the trafficking issue.

Some facts mentioned during the trafficking session:

  • Some 38 to 40 million people in the world are involved in human trafficking, a $150 billion industry. A total of 1.1 million people in North America are in trafficking situations.
  • Polaris, which serves victims and survivors through its National Human Trafficking Hotline, has addressed more than 85,000 trafficking situations in the 15 years it has run the Hotline.
  • More than a million people have been trained through the AHLA Foundation’s No Room for Trafficking program. Marriott itself has had almost a million people trained, Capuano said.
  • “We want every single hotel employee to be trained,” Rogers said.
  • “The primary way victims are convinced is through coercion,” Chen said. “You are up against someone who may not know they need help.”
  • Since the pandemic, the method of “recruitment” has changed. Traffickers shifted their attention online.
  • Identifying traffickers and victims in a hotel environment is becoming more difficult because of technological advancements that have eliminated the need to check in at a front desk.
  • A survivor can sue a corporation that benefited from his or her trafficking situation.
  • Engaging with survivors is important. They are employable.
  • A national survivor study showed victims often live in extreme poverty, experience homelessness, and/or are having or had a mental health crisis.
  • The National Human Trafficking Hotline takes donations of hotel loyalty points.

Kudos to AHLA and Questex for putting together such an informative and highly successful first-time event.

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