Human trafficking, also referred to as modern day slavery, involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain commercial sex or labour. Often, people fall victim to human trafficking through a false job offer, a promise of a better life or a romantic relationship. According to the International Labour Organization, it has entrapped over 30 million people worldwide, and not just in developing countries. In Canada, from 2009 to 2016, there were 1,099 police-reported human trafficking incidents – 55 per cent of these reported incidents happened between 2015 – 2016. However, these are only reported incidents. The RCMP estimates that there are an additional 1,400 cases of human trafficking each year. Further, it is also estimated that between 1,500 and 2,200 people are trafficked from Canada into the United States each year. In sum, these numbers show that Canada is a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking.
Despite the rising number of reported incidents over the last decade, human trafficking remains largely underreported and unnoticed, due in part to its deceptive nature. In fact, hotels and motels are at the frontlines of human trafficking. Often, human trafficking networks operate through legitimate businesses such as hotels to undertake their operations. Specifically, human traffickers use hotel and motel rooms to set up encounters between victims of sex and their purchasers. Labour trafficking is also present in the hotel industry’s workforce and supply chain.
The Hotel Association of Canada strongly believes that the hotel industry, along with partners and stakeholders, can play an important role in putting an end to human trafficking. HAC and its provincial counterparts must continue to raise awareness of human trafficking and encourage all members to institute processes and training programs that help employees recognize the signs of human trafficking and initiate appropriate responses.
The Role of Hotels
Hotel employees work in frontline positions, which provides an opportunity to recognize the potential warning signs of human trafficking. These employees have a wide range of duties that afford them the ability to access different areas of the hotel or motel property – this means that they may come into direct or indirect contact with both traffickers and victims.
Human trafficking is not easy to spot – the clues are subtle – and the potential warning signs may be specific to different hospitality roles (e.g. lobby, in-room staff, restaurant). The hotel industry can play a major part in stopping human trafficking by recognizing the general indicators and having proper protocols in place to report suspicious activity.