Contactless Technology and the Effect on Human Trafficking Prevention
The pandemic has accelerated the use of hotel technology, as many in the Hotel Industry invested in technology as a means of adhering to COVID-19 health and safety guidelines. Contactless hotel technology allowed hotels to offer guests the convenience of a more expedited check-in process that didn’t require waiting on lines or interacting with staff. The check-in experience is normally the first interaction that most guests have with hotel staff, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, hotels needed to implement social distancing measures and reduce the interaction between guests and employees. As convenient as contactless technology is, it removes the interaction between hotel employees and guests that is crucial in recognizing potentially dangerous situations such as human trafficking.
Human Trafficking Statistics
Between 25 and 40 million people are victims of human trafficking worldwide, unfortunately the use of hotels and motels have become common practice for sex traffickers. Traveling sales crews can also use hotels and motels to house trafficked workers. According to the Polaris Project, a nonprofit that specializes in human trafficking, between 2007 and 2017, 3,596 cases of human trafficking involving hotels or motels have been reported to the National Human Trafficking hotline.
- 75% of survivors came in contact with a hotel while being trafficked
- 80% of commercial sex takes place at hotels/motels
- 69% of human trafficking perpetrators use hotels
- 20% of victims are housed in hotels
Contactless Hotel Technology Reduces Interaction
It is very difficult to identify situations involving human trafficking and the investment in contactless technologies such as mobile check-in and mobile key, makes it even harder for victims to receive help. Mobile check-in allows guests to check-in in advance with their mobile devices and the addition of mobile key to the check-in process, enables guests to use their phones to gain access to their rooms. Therefore, guests can simply enter the hotel, gain access to elevators and go directly to their rooms without interacting with the hotel’s staff and without waiting on lines. Removing the need to interact with front desk staff reduces the likelihood of identify indicators of human trafficking.
Contactless technology looks like it is here to stay, as more hotels are investing in mobile technology. A survey conducted by Oracle Hospitality and Capstone Insights, surveyed 1,050 hospitality professionals in 7 countries, in order to evaluate their use of mobile technology. Of those surveyed:
- 82% reported capturing guest ID & membership cards by mobile devices
- 84% allowed advanced check-in
- 67% used mobile check-in/ check-out
- 47% had contactless payments in place
- 60% relied on mobile apps to communicate with guests
What are Hotels Doing to Prevent Human Trafficking?
Many hotels have taken steps to ensure that their staff are trained to identify potential signs of human trafficking. States such as California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and New Jersey, have passed laws that require human trafficking awareness training for the hotel and lodging industry.
Marriott’s Enhanced Human Trafficking Awareness Training
In July of 2021, Marriott launched the updated version of its Human Trafficking Awareness training. The training aims to train all its property associates to recognize and respond to potential signs of human trafficking at hotels by 2025. Marriott acknowledges that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in mobile technology in the Hotel Industry and has created challenges in identifying human trafficking. Marriott’s new training is an addition to the original training and features scenario-based modules, a mobile friendly design and additional guidance on how to appropriately respond to potential incidences of human trafficking. Marriott partnered with Polaris Project to develop storyboards scenarios based on calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline and is gearing training towards the well-being of human trafficking victims. Marriott also received input from ECPAT-USA, a nonprofit that specializes in sex trafficking, to incorporate important input from survivors during their training development. The enhanced training was developed with survivors of human trafficking in order to create a more victim centered training and to provide access to life-saving resources. Marriott has already trained 850,000 of its employees since the original training was launched.
AAHOA Updated Human Trafficking Training
This year, the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) whose members own 60% of the hotels in the U.S. also announced updates to its Human Trafficking training. Business Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST) Inhospitable to Human Trafficking Training is sponsored by AAHOA and aims to train its members and their employees in human trafficking prevention and awareness. The training helps hotel employees to identify and safely report signs of potential human trafficking situations. The updated training addresses the adoption of contactless technology, such as text messaging and apps required for check-in and aims to help hotels use these technologies to help in the prevention of human trafficking, despite the decreased interaction with guests. The training also addresses unconscious bias and behavioral indicators of human trafficking in order to help identify potential trafficking situations in hotels. The AAHOA also collaborates with the Polaris Project and the Department of Homeland Security to provide information and resources to hotel owners regarding human trafficking prevention. The BEST Inhospitable to Human Trafficking Training sponsored by AAHOA has been certified by the Florida Division of Hotels and Restaurants as an approved human trafficking awareness training and meets the requirements of the new Florida human trafficking mandate. AAHOA has trained close to 7,000 people to recognize indicators of human trafficking through the BEST Training.
Hotel Panic Buttons Can Help in Human Trafficking Prevention
Many cities and states have passed hotel panic button laws requiring that hotels provide their employees with panic buttons to create a safer work environment. Major hotel brands have also committed to equipping staff with panic buttons as a commitment to the AHLA’s 5-Star Promise. Panic buttons are employee safety devices carried by employees that can be activated when they encounter threatening situations and require assistance. Panic buttons send emergency alerts to hotel security personnel and provides the precise location of the employee in distress. Florida and Houston, Texas recently passed laws requiring that hotel owners provide their employees with human trafficking awareness training. Hotels can include the use of panic buttons in their human trafficking policies. Trained employees are better able to identify indicators of human trafficking and panic buttons can be used by employees to send out silent emergency alerts to hotel personnel in order to provide victims with crucial assistance.