Mike Dominguez on How to Combat Human Trafficking

Michael Dominguez, President and CEO of Associated Luxury Hotels International and recipient of EPCAT-USA Freedom Award.

President and CEO of Associated Luxury Hotels International Michael Dominguez and Meeting Professionals International recognized for fighting child exploitation in travel and tourism.

Sexual exploitation of children continues to be a worldwide horror story, with an estimated 25 million people globally being trafficked—and the hospitality industry is key to front-line defense efforts. “I often compare human trafficking to modern day slavery,” said  Michael Dominguez, ALHI president and CEO, in an interview with ECPAT-USA, the leading anti-trafficking policy organization in the United States. “I don’t know many other industries or communities that have as broad a reach as the hospitality industry,” he noted. Dominguez was recently honored with an ECPAT-USA Freedom Award for anti-human trafficking efforts in the hospitality industry.

MPI was also recognized recently for its commitment to end the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism, as the only U.S.-based member among the three Top Members in 2022 recognized by The Code (The Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism), a multi-stakeholder initiative supported by ECPAT. Top Members were selected based on their implementation of The Code’s six criteria, which include a clause in contracts throughout the value chain that states a common repudiation and zero tolerance policy of sexual exploitation of children, training employees in children’s rights, how to report suspected cases and more. Over the past few years, MPI’s Anti-Human Trafficking Committee, chapter leaders and MPI staff have helped to ensure that MPI was meeting its commitment to The Code.

Everyone in the hospitality industry can make a positive impact, said Dominguez. “We can be the eyes and ears across the globe helping to identify victims, if we know what we’re looking for.”

Here are some suggestions from Dominguez on how to raise awareness of human trafficking and help to combat it:

•Recognize that human trafficking is a worldwide problem, sometimes right in your backyard. Professionals in the meetings and events industry have very large platforms to help, noted Dominguez. The first step is to make sure your company, or the company you work for, is aware of the issue.

•Download the TraffickCam app, which uploads photos of hotel rooms to a law enforcement database—and encourage attendees to use the app as well. TraffickCam allows you to take four photos of every guest room that you stay in, which not only helps to create a database for law enforcement to help rescue kids, but also helps with prosecuting traffickers, said Dominguez. “The unfortunate reality,” he said,” is that many of these kids are marketed and trafficked in hotel rooms. The easiest way to explain the benefits of this app is by saying that it’s like facial recognition technology for a hotel room, allowing us to identify where it is, and possibly when a photo or video posted by a trafficker was taken. Using the app means that you have an opportunity to save somebody.”

•Look up from your phone. When you are in public spaces, particularly in airports and hotel lobbies, get off your cell phone and look around for suspicious behavior. “Put your head on a swivel,” said Dominguez, “and watch people like we used to.”

•The post-pandemic trend of bypassing the front desk with features like mobile check-in has created the need for revamped training, particularly with housekeeping. Hotels should be on the lookout for things like 24-7 Do Not Disturb signs and requests for very large amounts of extra linens.

•In lieu of traditional attendee gifts, consider making donations to ECPAT. ECPAT-USA will send letters acknowledging the donation, and people will feel good about it. Everyone may not have the bandwidth to actively help, said Dominguez, “but they can assist us with raising funds for the people who are giving their time.”

Learn more  from Dominguez at Prevue’s Survival Strategies Summit, May 22 to 23, 2023 at the JW Marriott Dallas Arts District, where he will be the keynote speaker.

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