MHLA Teams with BEST to Fight Human Trafficking

ANNAPOLIS, MD—The Maryland Hotel Lodging Association (MHLA) has entered into a new partnership with the Seattle-based nonprofit Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST) to make human trafficking awareness training available to all MHLA’s hotel members and their staffs, free of charge.

Earlier this year, Hotel Business Senior Editor Gregg Wallis reported on the hospitality industry’s efforts to train hotel staff to identify human trafficking.

BEST provides expertise in human trafficking prevention, and BEST’s Inhospitable to Human Trafficking training, sponsored by the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), helps hotel employees learn the indicators of human trafficking and how to safely report it to law enforcement. By partnering with BEST to offer this valuable training, the MHLA is helping its member hotels learn how to avert human trafficking at their properties.

Maryland’s location contributes to making it a central location for human trafficking, according to the organization. Traffickers use Maryland’s highways, especially Interstate 95, to transport victims to major East Coast cities such as New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington, DC. I-95 runs through some of the state’s most populated cities, making this highway a major corridor for human trafficking activity, according to the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force.

Human trafficking networks often rely on legitimate businesses, such as hotels, to sustain their operations and infrastructure. Given the transient nature of the hotel industry, with its service-focused culture that respects guest privacy, hotels can be an appealing environment for human traffickers. Therefore, it is essential that hotel employees are trained in what to look for.

“Try to imagine having your freedom taken away, continuously living with the fear of violence, and being forced to work against your will,” said Mar Brettmann, executive director, BEST. “These are things that human trafficking victims often experience. Our human trafficking awareness training helps hotel employees learn how to spot the warning signs when a guest is being trafficked, and to know how to safely report it.”

BEST’s Inhospitable to Human Trafficking training for hotel employees is a 30-minute, online, video-based training. The training is available in English or Spanish, and has been proven to increase hotel employee reporting. Researchers from the University of Washington evaluated BEST’s hotel training and found trained employees were more likely to come forward to report human trafficking incidents to their managers. Researchers also learned 96% of hotel employee participants believe the training made their hotel safer.

This new partnership will give more hotel and motel owners and managers across Maryland the opportunity to implement BEST’s valuable anti-trafficking training at no cost to MHLA’s members. MHLA is the most recent hotel association to adopt BEST’s human trafficking prevention training, joining a growing list of large hotel associations utilizing the program, including AAHOA, Texas Hotel and Lodging Association (THLA), California Hotel and Lodging Association (CHLA), Washington Hospitality Association, North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association (NCRLA), Hotel Association of New York City (HANYC) and the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association (PRLA).

“We are proud to partner with BEST on this very important issue,” said Amy Rohrer, president/CEO of MHLA. “BEST’s Inhospitable to Human Trafficking training is an informative and practical resource for hoteliers and their staff. This training will provide the Maryland lodging industry with the education necessary to help protect victims of exploitation and increase employee safety.”

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