Human Trafficking in Florida Restaurants and Hotels
Human trafficking is a reality in every state in the US, and Florida is no exception. Hospitality operator training and awareness are critical to ending this crime.
Representatives from the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association (FRLA) announced the launch of an online training course on human trafficking specifically designed to help hoteliers, restaurateurs and their staff. Created in conjunction with subject matter experts, the FRLA course objectives include teaching participants to recognize the signs of human trafficking, understand best practices to protect victims and promote anti-trafficking awareness. The course is free for all who take it.
“FRLA believes we have a moral obligation to do all we can to prevent this atrocious crime, and offering this course at no charge is one way we can help fight human trafficking,” said Carol Dover, CEO and President of the association. “We are committed to educating our members and others within the hospitality industry about the dangers of human trafficking, and this course underscores that commitment.”
Florida is the third-highest trafficking destination in the United States, and there were 604 cases of trafficking reported last year in the Sunshine State according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Geoff Luebkemann, Vice President of Education and Training at FRLA, says that those in the hospitality industry must understand that no one is immune.
“Most people think trafficking is sex trafficking that occurs in seedy motels in a bad part of town, but the facts are contrary to popular belief,” Luebkemann said. “The reality is that trafficking is also forced labor, which happens in broad daylight and can be found at diverse venues ranging from agricultural operations to golf resorts and upscale restaurants. Sex trafficking happens at properties across the price, service and luxury spectrum.”
Available online at StopHumanTraffickingFL.com, the course features research and resources from Polaris, the U.S. Department of Labor, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as well as the International Labor Organization. To help learners fully engage with the subject matter, the course is divided into two parts and includes interactive elements. Each section of the course contains information relevant to hotels and restaurants, underscoring Luebkemann’s position that trafficking can occur anywhere.
The launch of the free online course is the latest in a series of moves FRLA has made to engage and educate the hospitality community on the realities of human trafficking. The association has been actively involved in the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking for two years, and FRLA hosted a panel discussion on human trafficking at the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show on Sept. 8. Moderated by Luebkemann, the panel included Laura MacFarland of Places of Hope, Tomas Lares of Florida Abolitionist, Robin Thompson of STAC, Maurice Edwards of the Seminole County Sheriffs Office and Shelly Weir of the American Hotel & Lodging Association. These experts offered first-hand accounts of trafficking issues they have faced and discussed strategies for fighting trafficking at all levels including legislation.