From the Editor: Standing Guard

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While most hoteliers spend the majority of their work days focused on how to improve the guest experience while driving business to their hotels, one issue quickly becoming top of mind for owners and employees alike is human trafficking.

Though this topic has reared its ugly head many times in the past, it’s rarely been discussed openly in the industry for fear its very mention could create stigma for hotels, create panic among guests and fuel a decline in business.

But thankfully that’s changing, as greater awareness continues to build around this important issue. Today, hotel companies and associations in Canada and the U.S. are putting aside their competitive differences and joining forces to fight the epidemic. Earlier this year, for example, Accor, along with Hotelier magazine, came together to hold a half-day information-sharing session with a mandate to dispel myths and educate the industry on how to spot the signs of human trafficking and what it can do to help

While in the past, fear has typically impeded progress, ironically, that same fear is now propelling the industry forward as various groups in the U.S. have taken to publicizing names of hotels that are “contributing to the problem by not taking action against it.”

Additionally, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) Law Center in Washington recently filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division, seeking damages against several major hotel chains “for facilitating and profiting from the sex trafficking of a minor.” The plaintiff, B.M., was 16 years old when her trafficking began at the defendant hotels in 2014 and lasted for years.

The NCOSE is seeking damages from these hotels on behalf of the plaintiff, claiming they “willingly ignored numerous signs of the plaintiff’s sexual abuse and, in doing so, knowingly collaborated with her traffickers.”

The Center claims “through hotel staff and employees, these hotels should have known the plaintiff was being trafficked for sex,” due to a series of visible signs. According to the Center, “Corporations can’t go to jail and the only way to hold them accountable is damages and attorneys’ fees. These hotels developed and maintained business models that attract and foster the commercial sex market for traffickers and buyers alike.”

While it’s unclear how this law suit will play out before the courts, one thing is certain: hotel operators simply cannot afford to ignore the subject and, as hospitality professionals, everyone plays a role in the fight to end human trafficking.

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