New York City is the largest city in the U.S., known for its iconic landmarks, history, cultural attractions, and vibrant nightlife. It's one of the most visited cities in the world with over 65 million visitors projected to visit in 2023, despite still struggling to reach pre-pandemic tourism levels. Such a high volume of tourism can create inadvertent conditions that allow human trafficking to thrive undetected.
To combat this crime, BEST hosted a free two-part training session for New York City hoteliers in partnership with the Hotel Association of New York City (HANYC), the United Sates Department of Homeland Security Investigations, the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). Rebekah Fonden, a powerful advocate for human trafficking prevention and survivor of human trafficking, led the training, and the event was sponsored by Saint Thomas Church.
The event began with BEST’s Inhospitable to Human Trafficking training where participants were able to learn what human trafficking is, how human trafficking impacts the hospitality industry, what to do when hotel employees encounter a potential human trafficking situation, and how to prevent human trafficking in hotels.
Then hoteliers had an opportunity to learn from a special panel discussion of human trafficking experts. Rebekah shared her personal lived experience of sex trafficking in hotels and facilitated a panel discussion to enrich participants’ understanding of the violence and abuse that occurs in hotels when human trafficking goes undetected.
Panelists included Melanie Thompson, who is a survivors advocate and the Outreach and Advocacy Coordinator for the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women in New York City. Melanie shared critical information about the indicators of human trafficking, what hotel employees can do to assist survivors, and information about local services available for survivors of human trafficking in New York City. Laura Riso, a Victims Specialist with the FBI’s New York City office discussed crisis intervention and how hotel managers can work with law enforcement to safely address human trafficking and keep victims safe. And Special Agent Joseph Kang from the US Department of Homeland Security Investigations in New York presented about how hotel owners and managers can develop good relationships with law enforcement officers to help prevent human trafficking in hotels.
All of the participants received a certificate of completion, as well as a printable tool kit to be used in conjunction with the training. BEST’s printable tool kit provides hotel managers with back-of-house posters, indicator cards, resource cards for potential trafficking victims, and information hotels can add to their hospitality management platforms to help employees know how to recognize the indicators of human trafficking.
The event was a huge success in helping more New York City hotel owners and operators learn how to spot the indicators of human trafficking, how they can work with local law enforcement to address human trafficking incidents, and how they can help victims get connected to local social services.