World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, held this Thursday, was declared by the United Nations General Assembly in 2013. It raises awareness about human trafficking around the world.

THURSDAY WAS WORLD Day Against Trafficking in Persons and some hoteliers took time to recognize the event. Human trafficking is a major issue for the hotel industry even as it struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The day is sponsored annually by the United Nations General Assembly, which declared the day in 2013. It is meant to “raise awareness of the situation of victims of human trafficking and for the promotion and protection of their rights.”

Far from diminishing the need for the observation, the COVID-19 pandemic highlights its importance, Secretary General António Guterres said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated many global inequalities, created new obstacles on the path to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and left millions of people at greater risk of being trafficked for sexual exploitation, forced labor, forced marriage and other crimes,” Guterres said. “Women and girls already account for more than 70 per cent of detected human trafficking victims, and today are among the hardest hit by the pandemic.  With previous downturns showing that women face a harder time getting paid jobs back in the aftermath of crisis, vigilance is especially important at this time.”

Hotels have a particular role to play in fighting human trafficking, said Cecil Staton, AAHOA president and CEO, in a statement Thursday.

“As a society, we have a moral obligation to protect the most vulnerable amongst us. That is why, when human traffickers seek to exploit the powerless and defenseless in our communities, America’s hoteliers are stepping up to put a stop to it. Human trafficking is a terrible crime. AAHOA stands with victims and all those working to end trafficking,” Staton said. “Thousands of hotel owners and their employees are educating themselves about trafficking identification and prevention through AAHOA’s Human Trafficking Awareness Trainings. These free online trainings, developed in partnership with Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST) and Polaris, help hoteliers and hospitality employees understand trafficking, identify the signs, and respond to potential trafficking situations. We are proud to partner with the Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign as well as AHLA’s No Room for Trafficking campaign. The hospitality industry is united in keeping traffickers out of our hotels and our communities. Together, we can save lives and end this despicable practice.”

Last year AAHOA, the American Hotel & Lodging Association and several hotel companies also recognized National Human Trafficking Awareness Day on Jan. 11, part of National Human Trafficking Awareness Month for the month of January.