Human trafficking is bleak subject matter, but experts told local hoteliers Wednesday that training and a watchful eye can help foil traffickers.
Speakers from American Hotel & Lodging Association, the Utah Attorney General’s Office and the Malouf Foundation presented human trafficking prevention information and training at the Ellen Eccles Conference Center at Utah State University. The presentation was part of the 2019 Utah Tourism conference for hoteliers and the hospitality industry.
AHLA Vice President Troy Flanagan said human traffickers utilize hotels because they are generally high-anonymity and low-risk. He said while many hotel brands have been giving human trafficking prevention training to their employees, many have been reticent about the topic — especially those that are brand-conscious.
“If you’re one of the larger international brands, it’s not something you want to proactively bring up,” Flanagan said in his presentation.
Along with raising awareness and identifying best practices, Flanagan said the AHLA aims to procure training for every for every hotel employee in the U.S.
“It’s a big task and we’re just getting started,” Flanagan said, adding the task will include working with local legislators to create training mandates.
The Malouf Foundation — the nonprofit branch of local company Malouf — started a program called OnWatch where individuals can receive training on how to identify and help prevent human trafficking. Jake Neeley, the philanthropy and communications director at Malouf, said the training consists of 12 modules and can be completed in 45 minutes.
“At the end of that,” Neeley said in his presentation, “you’ll walk away with the confidence that if you see something you’ll know who to call and what to say.”
He said the human trafficking industry makes $99 billion annually.
“That’s enough money to buy every single NBA team, every Starbucks franchise and still have enough money to send every kid in the United States to college,” Neeley said.
Malouf founders Sam and Kacie Malouf started the nonprofit Malouf Foundation after meeting Operation Underground Railroad founder Tim Ballard at an Entrepreneur of the Year event in 2017. On Sept. 16, it was reported Malouf had achieved a designation as a benefit corporation based on the business’ environmental and societal goals and standards.
“Industries all over are trying to tackle this,” Neeley said. “But there’s still a lot of help that needs to be made.”