In the early morning hours at one of Marriott’s hotels in New Orleans, an employee noticed something suspicious. A young boy, just 12 years old, was with two older men — one of whom said to the other, “I may take this one home.”
Trained to recognize the signs of human trafficking, the employee alerted her supervisor, who in turn called the police. Her suspicions were correct, things were definitely not right. The boy had been missing for three days.
While this story has a positive ending, the reality is that human traffickers often use hotels as sites to exploit their victims for sexual exploitation. In an opinion piece for USA Today, Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson explains why the hotel chain is stepping up to be part of the solution.
It is an unfortunate reality that traffickers sometimes use hotels to exploit victims and commit their crimes. But rather than wish it were otherwise, we decided to make our 6,000-plus properties worldwide part of the solution.
Several years ago, we teamed up with End Child Prostitution and Trafficking, or ECPAT-USA, a non-profit policy organization that focuses on ending the sexual exploitation of children, and Polaris, a non-profit that works to fight human trafficking, both leaders in the fight against human trafficking, to develop a comprehensive training program for our hotel staff.
In January, we made human trafficking training mandatory for all associates, and developed training tailored to the specific roles on our properties. Over 225,000 of our associates completed the training this past year, and we’re on our way to our goal of 100%.
Sorenson adds that Marriott has also partnered with the American Hotel & Lodging Association, translating the training into 15 languages so that it can be used worldwide.
Moreover, the company is signing ECPAT’s Code, a pledge that now obliges Marriott to fight the sexual exploitation of children on its properties, both by developing specific policies and procedures and training employees to recognize the signs.
“As a global hospitality company, with nearly 700,000 people wearing a Marriott badge around the world, we can create a force for good in thousands of communities. By elevating the fight against human trafficking, we are not just standing up for the most vulnerable, we are also protecting our associates and customers, as well as our company’s reputation,” writes Sorenson.