Human trafficking generates about $150 billion a year globally in illegal profits, according to the International Labour Organization, and poses a complicated challenge for major hotel chains.
In 2020 there were more than 10,000 reported cases of human trafficking in the U.S., with 72% of those related to sex trafficking, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Hotels and motels are among the most common venues for sex trafficking due to easy access, willingness to accept cash, and lack of facility maintenance.
The Covid-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the issue, as criminals abuse new hotel technology like contactless check-in, which makes it more difficult to spot signs of trafficking. Meanwhile, sex trafficking lawsuits continue to pile up against hotel chains.
A law passed in 2000 to criminalize trafficking penalizes private entities that enable or are complicit with the illegal act. Since then, major hotel brands as well as smaller motels have been sued for negligence, profiting from and promoting sex trafficking.
Hotels such as Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt have implemented their own human trafficking training requirements for employees. Hotel staff are asked to look for warnings signs including paying with cash, toting few personal items and refusing cleaning service for multiple days.
Most hotels and motels agree they have a responsibility to detect, monitor and report potential trafficking.