Americans tend to link human trafficking with other “third world problems” like genocide and famine, but in 2011 there were 4,239 convictions in human trafficking cases across the country. Each year, between 15,000 and 60,000 individuals are brought into the United States and held against their will as victims of human trafficking.
Typical of these cases is the story of Maria, a Filipino woman who paid a large recruitment fee to come to the United States under a guest worker program. Promised housing, transportation and a lucrative job in the hospitality industry, Maria arrived to find no work and squalid living accommodations. Maria’s passport was seized and she was prevented from leaving the house. The recruiters were eventually indicted by a grand jury for conspiracy to hold workers in a condition of forced labor.
Legislative efforts have helped curtail the worst of these abuses, but equally important has been the work of hotel companies that are working to prevent trafficking-related crimes on their properties. The United States hospitality industry has coalesced around an effort by ECPAT USA, short for End Child Prostitution and Trafficking, a nonprofit that introduced the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct in 2004. Among signers to the Code are Carlson, owner of Radisson Hotels and other chains, the Wyndham Worldwide Corporation, the Real Hospitality Group and Hilton Worldwide, among several other U.S. companies.
Carlson’s program includes training housekeeping staff at Carlson-owned hotels to identify signs of prostitution, like an unusually large number of electronic devices in guest rooms or several condoms in the wastebasket. Hilton Worldwide has training programs at both the leadership and department levels to teach hotel employees to identify and recognize illicit activities and better understand the issues surrounding child trafficking. The company works with several nonprofit organizations, including the Somaly Man Foundation, Vital Voices and Room to Read, in order “to bring more resources and opportunities to survivors as well as strengthen organizations that are on the frontlines of fighting child sex trafficking,” according to Jennifer Silberman, the company’s Vice President of Corporate Responsibility.
Learn more at Harry Stevens’ Just Means article: Largest U.S. Hotel Companies Work to Prevent Human Trafficking.