Sheraton Times Square hotel workers learn signs of human trafficking as part of Marriott International’s mandatory awareness training. Photo courtesy Marriott.

AS NATIONAL SLAVERY and Human Trafficking Prevention Month continues, Marriott International said it has reached a goal of training 500,000 hotel workers to spot and stop human trafficking. The company is one of a growing number of hotel companies and associations spending January focusing on ways to fight this crime.

Marriott launched its mandatory human trafficking awareness training program for on-property staff in both managed and franchised properties in January 2017 as part of its sustainability and social impact initiative, Serve 360: Doing Good in Every Direction.

“Human trafficking is a horrific form of modern slavery that entraps millions of people around the world,” said Marriott President and CEO Arne Sorenson. “By educating and empowering our global workforce to say something if they see something, we are not just standing up for the most vulnerable in society, we are also protecting associates and guests.”

Marriott’s training program has led to direct results, the rescue of young people being held in the sex trade. It collaborated with non-profit anti-trafficking groups ECPAT-USA and Polaris to create the program, which has been translated into 16 languages as well as English so it can be taught to employees throughout the 130 countries in which Marriott does business.

Because a front desk clerk may see different aspects of guest behavior from a housekeeper or a bartender, the training is tailored for each employee role. Some of the warning signs they are trained to spot include guests with minimal luggage and clothing, multiple men seen being escorted one at a time to a guest room, individuals who can’t speak freely or seem disoriented, and guests who insist on little or no housekeeping.

“Hotel workers wouldn’t necessarily see a human trafficker visibly restraining a victim; they would typically see a scenario that is much more nuanced and harder to detect if you don’t know what to look for,” said David Rodriguez, Marriott’s chief global human resources officer. “That’s why helping hotel workers identify the signs of sexual exploitation and forced labor is so important. This knowledge gives them confidence that they can do something to help, which is already having an important impact in our hotels.”

Marriott also makes their training program available through the American Hotel & Lodging Association Education Foundation with the proceeds going to support ECPAT-USA and Polaris. The company also encourages guest to look out for suspicious behavior during their stay and report it to 911 or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text “BeFree” (233733).

Earlier this month other organizations, including AAHOA, also recognized the month and National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. The month of awareness began in 2014 with a proclamation by President Barack Obama issued in December 2013. In the proclamation, Obama says the nation must address the “underlying forces that push so many into bondage.”

“Thousands of AAHOA members and their employees have taken AAHOA’s free online Human Trafficking Awareness Training and are making their front desks the front line in the fight against this heartbreaking exploitation,” AAHOA President and CEO Chip Rogers said in a statement. “America’s hoteliers stand with victims, law enforcement, and allies, not only today on Human Trafficking Awareness Day, but every day as we remain ever vigilant and committed to ending this despicable practice.”