By Katie Amodei, Communications Manager, Business Ending Slavery and Trafficking, and Alisha West Technology Coordinator, Business Ending Slavery and Trafficking
Recently, we were able to speak with Alison Galioto, vice president of Hospitality Associates, a Northwest-based hotel management group, about why she has worked so diligently to make sure her staff at their 26 hotels are trained to handle human trafficking.
“Some of the activity is obvious,” Alison explains, “I’ve seen women wearing hardly any clothing and they would come in with a man who paid in cash. The paying in cash is a definite sign. Sometimes they said they didn’t have a bank account or were not able to check-in with a credit card in their name. Sometimes they would check in under a name you could tell was a false name.”
But other times, Alison says, “It’s not always so obvious. If they wear everyday clothes, and they do use a credit card, and are not bringing in a lot of men, sometimes it’s hard to see. That’s why we want to do this training, so our staff are able to detect the less obvious signs of sex trafficking.”
Though she’s a vice president now, Alison started her hospitality career working as a housekeeper at a hotel in Grand Coulee, Wash. From there she became a front desk clerk at a Spokane Valley hotel before moving on to become a general manager at a hotel in Seattle. Throughout her career journey, she has personally witnessed some of the tell-tale signs of sex trafficking in hotels. This knowledge and first-hand experience made her even more dedicated to educating employees working on the front-lines.
According to Alison, front-line staff first need to be aware that sex trafficking can happen even at nice hotels and that it is not a victimless crime. Secondly, staff need to know what indicators to look for and how to report the crime when it happens. Just these simple things can help more girls, boys, women and even men escape a life of sexual exploitation.
Alison shared a story about a time when her staff successfully intervened to help a young woman in need. The employees at the front desk heard two women arguing loudly in a public bathroom in the hotel. There was a young woman and an older woman, who had not yet checked in, and the employees were able to tell that the younger woman was in distress. The two women then took their argument to the parking lot where it became physically abusive.
Judging that it was safe to do so, one of the front desk employees intervened in the argument and brought the young woman back into the hotel while the older women drove off. The young woman explained to the front desk staff that she had been offered a ride to California, but instead was brought to the hotel where the older woman tried to coerce her into trafficking. The hotel manager then called the police and the FBI task force came to help the young woman with her situation.
It’s rare to have the chance to intercede before any sexual exploitation occurs, but this young woman was lucky enough to find herself at a hotel where the staff didn’t look the other way. Alison’s staff may have saved this young person’s life.
Stories like this one made Alison determined to create a workplace culture where employees know what to do when they see potential sex trafficking. With 26 hotels in the ownership group, Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST) was thankful and honored when Hospitality Associates chose to partner with us for this training. In fact, Hospitality Associates have already trained its senior-level management.
At their corporate retreat last year and are now rolling out the staff training to all its properties throughout Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Idaho and Montana. BEST is providing Hospitality Associates not only with training, but also with informational posters to be displayed in the employee break rooms, indicator cards describing possible warning signs and instructions on what to do if staff see indicators of sex trafficking.
When we asked Alison if she had any advice to give to other vice presidents who are thinking of implementing training, she said, “I had to really keep pushing for this training to happen, and I’ve been pushing for about two or three years. I know this is an uncomfortable topic, but you can present it in a way that makes it not uncomfortable. BEST’s videos really help with that. It’s important. It’s just part of running your business. These are some of the important talks we need to be having with our staff.”
Katie Amodei is Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking’s (BEST) communications manager, and Alisha West is its technology coordinator. BEST raises awareness about how employers can help stop human trafficking. BEST consults on best practices and provides model policies for employers. BEST trains employees to implement best practices and stop exploitation before it happens. BEST enables employers to provide jobs for survivors of trafficking and people considered at-risk.
Ending Human Trafficking:
Association Members Receive FREE Human Trafficking Prevention Training
Use BEST’s Inhospitable to Human Trafficking
Training to train your staff and managers to see the signs
The Washington Hospitality Association is pleased to announce that we are providing free human trafficking training for all our members and their employees.
Through a partnership with BEST (Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking), you now have unlimited and free access to the most comprehensive human trafficking prevention training available for hospitality employees.
To complete the training, follow these steps:
- Go to BEST’s Training Center.
- Register and use the voucher code: WAHospitality.
- Select and complete Individual Manager Training.
- After registering, log into this site at any time: training.bestalliance.org.
Do you want to train your staff? If so, go to bit.ly/2FMaWyA to read: How to Train Your Staff.
Be sure and save this article! After reading through instructions for training your staff, you’ll need to include one or more of the following voucher codes in communications with your staff.
- Individual Staff Training Course (English): WAHospitality-staff
- Individual Staff Training Course (Spanish): WAHospitality-span
- Individual Manager Training Course: WAHospitality
- Group Training Course (English): WAHospitality
- Group Training Course (Spanish): WAHospitality
The user acknowledges that, by using this free training, the user agrees, on behalf of the user and the employees with whom the user shares the training, to be subject to BEST’s terms and conditions.