Hawaii visitor industry event focuses on sex trafficking

HONOLULU — Hawaii’s tourism industry held a conference warning hotel owners and employees of the prevalence of sex trafficking at visitor properties and providing information about how to fight it.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority funded the inaugural Campaign for a Safer Community symposium in partnership with the Hawaii Tourism and Lodging Association and anti-sex trafficking group Ho’ola na Pua, news organizations reported.

The Honolulu event Monday was the first of four, with conferences also scheduled this week on Maui, Hawaii island and Kauai, officials said.

The tourism authority provided $50,000 for the training sessions, officials said.

“If they don’t think that something’s right or they see something unusual, call the police,” said Chris Tatum, Hawaii Tourism Authority president.

Industry members heard from the tourism authority, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and others with information about curbing the use of hotels in the $100 billion illegal industry.

“The threat is significant. It cannot be overstated. If you own or work for a hotel, there is human trafficking happening in your hotel,” said John Tobon of Homeland Security Investigations Honolulu.

Only 8% of hoteliers can identify instances of sex or human trafficking before training, while 44% of employees recognized cases afterward, according to advocacy group Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking.

“Hotels are now saying not only is this the right thing to do for our community, this is the right thing to do for our business,” said Mar Brettmann, the organization’s president.

Sex trafficking affects all hotel types, and partnerships within the industry are crucial, experts and property operators said.

“There are 700,000 people wearing a Marriott nametag. And that’s many pairs of eyes. When educated properly and trained on what to look for, we can use those eyes for good,” said Trevor Bracher of Marriott.


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