By Brian Collett — Hoteliers in the UK have combined to stamp out modern slavery throughout their industry.
The Stop Slavery Hotel Industry Network has been formed to tackle the risks in the running of hotels and in their suppliers’ practices.
More precise initial policies were announced at the annual conference of Trust Women, a UK group founded to empower women and fight slavery worldwide, held November 30.
The first objective of the project, led by the Shiva Foundation, which is funded by London-based Shiva Hotels, is to eliminate suspect recruitment and employment.
The network wants to ensure that employees are given reasonable pay and conditions. Some employees, often provided by third-party agencies, have been said to be overworked and underpaid.
A second objective is to rid the industry of sexual exploitation. Traffickers have been known to book into UK hotels accompanied by women destined to be held captive for sex trade purposes.
Hoteliers running the project fear even that some booked rooms are used for prostitution.
A third aim is to make certain that hotels’ supply chains are ethical. The hoteliers want to be satisfied that suppliers, many of whom provide cotton products and food, are free of forced and sweated labour.
They recommend that hotel owners buy only goods that have recognised accreditation.
The network has Shiva Hotels, the Hilton group and Bespoke Hotels as founding members and is endorsed by the British Hospitality Association.
The International Tourism Partnership, which works with international hotel groups on human rights, provides links to the industry worldwide.
The UK hotel and hospitality sector employs 2.4 million people and contributes more than £34bn ($42bn, €40bn) to the economy. This industry, with tourism, involves 180,000 businesses. The network believes the numbers offer huge scope for growing the anti-slavery campaign.
Rishi Sachdev, the Shiva Hotels and Shiva Foundation founder and director, said: “Modern slavery is an urgent issue that affects thousands of people across the UK. As a major business sector involving millions of people, the hotel industry has a real opportunity to help prevent these crimes.”
Ufi Ibrahim, the British Hospitality Association chief executive, spoke of company responsibility: “The safety and wellbeing of those involved in the hotel industry – employees, guests and all those in the supply chains – are paramount.”
Nicolas Perin, the International Tourism Partnership programme manager, welcomed the network as it enabled hotels to lead the way in combating modern slavery.
Shiva Hotels has already introduced a pilot scheme, placing its trafficking statement on the television screens in its rooms to encourage vigilance by guests, and showing staff how to spot anything suspicious and to see potential risks in supply chains.