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Hotel industry slavery toolkit

Some 110,000 sex slaves and labour slaves are exploited in hotels and restaurants in the EU. That’s according to COMBAT, a new project led by Prof Alexandros Paraskevas of the University of West London (UWL). He was among the speakers at the ASIS 2016 European conference in London in April, on how Europe’s hotel industry is vulnerable to human trafficking, often described as modern day slavery.

Hence a new training toolkit for hotels to tackle human trafficking was launched in October in London, and presented to the hospitality industry including the Director of International Tourism Partnership, VP Corporate Responsibility of InterContinental Hotel Group and representatives from Thames Valley Police and Unite the trade union.

Co-funded by the European Commission’s Directorate of Home Affairs, COMBAT’s multi-disciplinary project team consisted of Principal Investigator Prof Paraskevas and Project Leader Prof Angela Roper of UWL, researchers from Oxford Brookes University, the Finnish Lapland University of Applied Sciences and the Romanian Ratiu Foundation for Democracy. An advisory board was drawn from international hotel groups, the law enforcement and security sectors and anti-trafficking NGOs.

Prof Paraskevas said, ‘We are delighted with the reception our work received not only by major stakeholders such as the UNWTO, HOTREC, EFFAT and several international hotel groups but also from smaller hotel owners, licensed multiple retailers, trade unions and law enforcement. Most importantly we are encouraged by the reception of hospitality and tourism management students with whom we piloted our training in Europe and Asia and their determination to eradicate human trafficking in our industry.’

The United Nations World Travel Organisation (UNWTO), along with other organisations, has committed to use the toolkit to tackle human trafficking. The project researchers will also be working with Thames Valley Police to ensure the toolkit is used as part of their ‘Hotel Watch’ schemes across Thames Valley regions.

Of an estimated 1.1 million victims of human trafficking across Europe annually, over 93,000 sex slaves and 4500 labour slaves are exploited in hotels and 12,500 labour slaves are exploited in restaurants. Prof Roper said: ‘Due to the different legal frameworks in the EU, human trafficking is significantly under-reported. A significant proportion of trafficking is done in hotels which, by their nature, often facilitate not only the accommodation of traffickers and their victims but are used for both sexual and labour exploitation of trafficked victims and we are pleased to have launched the toolkit to combat this.’

The researchers interviewed and surveyed hotel executives and managers across European countries, and identified 28 hotel industry vulnerabilities to human trafficking. The team developed a ‘barriers model’ which proposed action in critical intervention points of the trafficked victim’s ‘journey’ in a hotel.


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