By Lin Taylor
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Hotels across Britain are joining forces to fight modern slavery in an initiative to be unveiled on Wednesday that will encourage staff and guests to help spot signs of trafficking in hotel foyers and corridors.
Major hotel groups, including the Hilton and Shiva Hotels, will pledge to examine their supply chains for forced labor, train staff how to spot and report signs of trafficking, and raise awareness of the issue among hotel guests.
From goods made by forced labor to hotels being used to sexually exploit trafficking victims, many hoteliers are on the frontline of the fight against slavery, said campaign head Meenal Sachdev from the Shiva Foundation, an anti-trafficking group funded by Shiva Hotels.
"Businesses have a big role to play. It's not just the government's job, it's not just charities working on the ground trying to protect these victims," said Sachdev, who started the Stop Slavery Hotel Industry Network.
"People don't really know what tangible steps they can take. But you don't need to leave your sector to go and do something about this problem," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The campaign will be launched on Wednesday at Trust Women, an annual women's rights and trafficking conference organized by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, with hopes that it will expand internationally from Britain.
Modern slavery has become a catch-all term to describe human trafficking, forced labor, debt bondage, sex trafficking, forced marriage and other slave-like exploitation.
Nearly 46 million people around the world are living as slaves, forced to work in factories, mines and farms, sold for sex, trapped in debt bondage or born into servitude, according to the 2016 Global Slavery Index by the Walk Free Foundation.
There are an estimated 13,000 victims of forced labor, sexual exploitation and domestic servitude in Britain.
The Modern Slavery Act - which came into force in Britain in 2015 - increased jail terms for traffickers and brought in measures to protect people feared at risk of being enslaved.
With support from the British Hotel Association and the International Tourism Partnership, Sachdev said she hopes hotels across the globe will join the network and follow the group's stance against modern slavery.
The hotel and hospitality sector in Britain employs over 4.4 million people with several key risk areas within the industry but Sachdev said hotel guests also had a role to play.
"We're also calling on individuals to be vigilant when they're making hotel bookings," said Sachdev.
"So next time you walk into a hotel, ask them what they're doing to tackle human trafficking and slavery."
(Reporting by Lin Taylor, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)