People Trafficking Indicators For Hospitality Professionals

By Emily Hourican
People Trafficking Indicators For Hospitality Professionals

The sad reality is that people trafficking continues to be a major issue, particularly the trafficking of children. And the hospitality industry is particularly likely to come into contact with the victims. Here are some indicators on what to look out for, created with professionals for Hospitality Ireland.

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue of Hospitality Ireland Magazine, in July of 2021.

Each year, Ireland reports an average of 50 persons (including children) formally identified as victims of Human Trafficking across the island. Whilst the numbers are relatively low compared with our European neighbours, the challenge in Ireland remains around identification. Many frontline professionals, who are the most likely to encounter a victim of Trafficking, remain unaware of its prevalence and are uneducated in relation to the signs of Trafficking to look out for. In 2021, The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) advised that “Ireland is not screening for victims of Child Trafficking” and The US State Department placed Ireland on a Tier-2 Watchlist, the only country in Western Europe to be identified as underresponding and under-reporting in terms of Human Trafficking.

What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is generally understood to refer to the trade in and exploitation of an individual for another person’s gain. Trafficking can occur within a country or may involve movement across borders. Child Trafficking is defined as the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt” of a child for the purpose of exploitation.

There are different types of Child Trafficking and these include Child Labour, Child Sexual Exploitation, Forced Labour, Forced Criminality; with Child Sexual Exploitation being the most prevalent type witnessed by frontline staff in the Hospitality Industry.


MECPATHS’ Work With The Hospitality Industry:

Since its foundation in 2013, MECPATHS has always worked very closely with the Hospitality Industry to deliver its free-ofcharge workshops on Trafficking, to support hotels in their efforts to ensure the safeguarding and protection of all; and has proudly partnered with many leading hotel brands across the island of Ireland including PREM Group, Dalata, Trigon Hotel Group and The Gleneagle Hotel Group, along with a wide-range of independent and family-owned hotels.

Speaking about their engagement with MECPATHS, Sarah Marr, Group Human Resources Manager, PREM Group, Ireland and UK said “We were introduced to MECPATHS by the Irish Hotels Federation. We were so shocked by the statistics for human trafficking for Ireland that we felt we had to do something to try to prevent it happening. The more awareness there is of this social problem, the more progress can be made in dismantling this multi-billion criminal industry. All our team members in Ireland now know the signs that could be an indication of child sex trafficking taking place and, most importantly, they know how to report their suspicions.”

Industry Collaboration

In addition to direct work with hotels, MECPATHS collaborates with Hospitality Training Colleges around Ireland and has been in a long-term partnership with Shannon College of Hotel Management for many years, with more recent partners including TUDublin and Griffith College.

In March 2020, MECPATHS launched an accredited module on Human Trafficking with Maynooth University (Applied Social Studies), and continues to foster close working relationships with emerging professional Social Workers who remain key to identifying vulnerable children who are exploited in Ireland for criminal and sexual purposes.

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, MECPATHS has continued to deliver its workshops online, and has diversified the range of services with whom it works to include The Private Security Authority, online recruitment agencies, and child-focused frontline workers. The diversification comes as a result of industry-lead requests for formal training, responding to International best-practice lead learning and the growing scope of the challenge.


Whilst many industries remain confident that their responses are robust, the consistent growth of Human Trafficking in the world each year suggests the need for a unified and educated response. It is estimated that the Human Trafficking industry generates $151 Billion per year for those leading the industry and that 40.3 million people remain trapped as victims. Ireland is not immune to the challenge and it is imperative that responsible business practices support victim identification and restoration to freedom.

Dr. Phillip J Smyth, President of Shannon College of Hotel Management, A College of NUI Galway, Shannon, Co. Clare said “We are absolutely delighted to be a part of Irelands efforts to counter human trafficking through our recent collaboration with MECPATHS. The hospitality sector is often used by traffickers to hide victims including children in temporary locations like hotels for the purpose of exploitation. We in the hospitality industry and related education sector have a huge responsibility in raising awareness around this issue. Training our staff on what warning signs they can be looking out for and how we can all take steps to help counteract this growing worldwide problem. ”


MECPATHS is a social justice response to the growing prevalence of Human Trafficking (also known as Modern Day Slavery) and the exploitation of people, in Ireland.

MECPATHS is the only non-profit organisation in the Republic of Ireland which raises awareness of the presence of human trafficking activity in Ireland, specifically the trafficking of children for exploitation; and how to identify and report it. It aims to both prevent the trafficking of children, and to enhance protection of those who may be trafficked through identification and reporting.

MECPATHS collaborates closely with private, statutory and nonstatutory agencies and organisations working to counter Human Trafficking including An Garda Síochána and The Department of Justice, with a particular focus on those working in the Hospitality sector.


MECPATHS invites you to get in touch at [email protected] if you or your company would like to learn more about the free-ofcharge workshops which are available (online) to you and your staff. MECPATHS can equip you to ensure that children and adults are kept safe and your staff are fully aware of what to look out for should suspicions be raised. Child Trafficking: Know It, See It, Say It.

If you have any concerns, or would like to find out more, visit www.mecpaths.com. In an emergency situation, always call 112 to report suspicious behaviour.

MECPATHS provides indicators for all areas of hotels where staff work. the sample below is specifically for front-of-house staff:

Front of House Indicators chart.

Read More: Hospitality Ireland Summer 2021: Read The Latest Issue Online!