Recently, cases of human trafficking (sexual exploitation) have become epidemic, raising questions about the safety of victims, as well as methods of prevention and treatment.
In this context, the importance of vigilance and training of staff of hotel departments in all specialties to detect cases of human trafficking for the purpose of sexual or labor activity.
Waitresses, cleaners, front desk clerks and people who handle room or kitchen reservations, managers, all “links” in the hospitality workforce chain can do their part to fight this phenomenon.
“Training in hotels starts with defining what human trafficking isand then different scenarios are presented of what human trafficking could be, what “first bells” should lead us to think that something is wrong, and what each department can do to respond to such a situation, ”explains Rania Deimesi, Regional Director of Human Resources for Greece (Inclusive Collection) World of Hyatt.
The specialist emphasizes that training of all employees on human trafficking issues is mandatory in Hyatt hotels worldwide (owned, operated or franchised). In Greece it started last year, and already 300 people have completed it in Corfu and about 85 in Zakynthos.
According to Ms. Deimesi, while some employees initially viewed training as something they should do formally, over time they became more actively and enthusiastically involved in presentations and “working through” scenarios to identify a dangerous social phenomenon.
“In the case of human trafficking, we often doubt what we see (is it really illegal?), and therefore are often hesitant to say “where to go.” However, there some signswhich can give us a “red signal” (to start action).
For example, when hotel staff notice that a person does not have freedom of movement or is under constant surveillance, that they appear frightened, physically exhausted, or “lost,” that they are not allowed to speak or use a telephone, they may take this as a sign that something that’s not the case and that you need to be on the lookout.
When a hotel customer requests too many towels or much more food than the number of people in the room allows, or when they insist that the room be too far from the reception or overlooking the parking lot, when one of the two people staying in a double room never goes out, and the other one goes in and out all the time, when someone is booking multiple rooms without an event or being a tour operator, or when a person insists on paying large sums strictly in cash, or spends hours in a car in a parking lot on a territory without a job – this is also a ‘signal’,” notes Ms. Deimezy.
The expert adds that anyone can be a trafficker, even beyond suspicionfrom friends and acquaintances of the victim to businessmen or diplomats. “Human traffickers are not always considered criminals,” she explains. This image is also supported by statistics compiled by the Hyatt group for the US market, in the context of a collaboration with the non-profit organization Polaris, which began in 2020, to improve the training of its staff. People who “ “recruit” victims of trafficking, whether for sexual exploitation or forced labor, are usually associated with exploited people and often enjoy their trust: a family member or guardian (33%), a partner (28%) or an employer (22%).
After “recruitment”, victims (not only women and children, but also young men) are used by: employers (43%), those who were related to the victim (26%), intimate partners (22%).
Emotional abuse (28%), financial abuse (26%) and threats (23%) are the most frequently cited methods of abuse, fraud and coercion that victims face.
In total, the U.S. national anti-trafficking hotline recorded more than 10,350 cases of human trafficking in 2021, while more than 16,500 people have been identified as potential victims. The top three forms of human trafficking are: escort services (10%), pornography (8%), illegal provision of massage, health and beauty services (8%).
Hyatt has announced a $500,000 donation to the AHLA Foundation, which supports victims of human trafficking and the hospitality industry’s ongoing efforts to combat this criminal activity.