Modern Slavery

Hotels can be the scene of various forms of modern slavery, including human trafficking related to sexual exploitation, labour trafficking and bonded labour. These issues may affect hotel employees and customers, especially in properties where staff are sub-contracted and where there is a lack of policy or staff awareness.

The anonymity and privacy of hotels make them an easy target for being misused as a location for human trafficking, e.g. related to sexual exploitation (mostly of women and children). Hotels are also often used as a place to hide or transit people being trafficked. Escort services and traveling sales crews are other types of trafficking most likely to use hotels for their businesses. As human trafficking is heterogeneous, dynamic, and hidden, hotel managers and staff often do not know what to look for.

Hotels, motels, and resorts regularly subcontract recruitment of staff to specialized recruitment agencies, handing over the direct responsibility for their staff and thereby paving the way for forced or bonded labour and exploitation. Migrant workers face an especially high risk of being recruited by dubious intermediate agencies, bonding them through fees for transport and visas, even before they have earned any money. Often passports and wages are withheld by their employers, making it impossible for migrant workers to leave their jobs. Victims are often found working as front desk attendants, bell staff, and, most frequently, in housekeeping. A high staff turnover also increases the dangers of modern slavery. Employees may be unaware that their treatment is illegal. They may also fear being turned over to authorities or deported (if coming from abroad), as well as losing their source of income.

Forced labour: ILO
Forced labour: Qatar
Modern Slavery: Greece
Threat of Modern Slavery in Hotels: Europe
Forced labour: ILO

In search of a job to support his family, a man accepts an offer from a recruiter and signs a contract for what looks like a good job with decent wages. Once at destination, the reality is very different. His passport is taken and he does not receive the promised salary, no rest days and has to live under terrible conditions. A video by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). 

Forced labour: Qatar

The Guardian found evidence of modern slavery at Kempinski hotel in Qatar. Many of the hotel staff come from South Asia, East and West Africa or the Philippines and have paid large recruitment fees of up to £3,160 to get a working contract in Qatar. Staff reported working 12-hour shifts, months of working without rest days, and very low salaries below the minimum wage. Repaying the exorbitant recruitment fees may take staff numerous years. Qatar’s Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs has announced an investigation into the claims.

Modern Slavery: Greece

The video report by the Deutsche Welle (2017) identifies staffing practices in Greece amounting to modern slavery. Staff work several months without having a day off during the tourist season, receive very low salaries without social insurance, or are forced to work overtime without compensation. Most workers do not protest because they fear losing their job in a difficult economic climate. 

Threat of Modern Slavery in Hotels: Europe

Major UK hotels found failing to combat threat of modern slavery 

Major hotels in Britain are failing to protect workers from debt bondage and sexual exploitation, according to a study on Wednesday that found 75% of hospitality businesses were flouting anti-slavery legislation. Yet more than two-thirds of large hotel companies have not disclosed any information about the risk of slavery in their supply chains, the human rights group Walk Free said, based on a sample selection of 71 major hospitality firms.

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Take action

Policy and process

  • Develop a company-specific policy statement containing a commitment not to accept recruitment fees paid by migrant workers.
  • Integrate clauses on modern slavery/no recruitment fees for migrant workers in contracts with hotels.

Training and capacity building

  • Conduct training with sales staff (internal) and hotel business partners on modern slavery in the hotel industry.

Communication and reporting

  • Report on how your company deals with modern slavery risks in large hotels (Modern Slavery Statements (UK)).

Sector collaboration

Grievance mechanisms

  • Promote and inform customers about hotlines / helplines to report modern slavery incidents.

Find more information on potential measures to take on the "take action" site. 

Learn more

Find more information in the Resource Centre.