IHG Partners With It’s a Penalty to Fight Human Trafficking in Miami

As a hotel sponsor of It’s a Penalty, 40 IHG-branded hotels in the Miami area distributed 27,000 campaign materials to guests and staff over a two-week period.

Staybridge Suites Ft. Lauderdale Plantation staff with It's a Penalty materials
Staybridge Suites Ft. Lauderdale Plantation staff with It's a Penalty materials

MIAMI — IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) recently partnered with international nonprofit organization It’s a Penalty to support anti-human trafficking efforts ahead of the Super Bowl on Feb. 2.

“The hospitality and hotel industry has an important role to play in combatting human trafficking,” said John Kelley, regional vice president of operations, IHG. “As our hotel teams in and around Miami prepared to serve thousands of additional guests during one of the largest professional sporting events in the world, the partnership with It’s a Penalty was a great way to increase awareness around this important issue, underscore our commitment to fighting this crime and supplement the tools and information we provide to colleagues to help them spot signs of potential human trafficking.”

Activities in Miami kicked off on Jan. 9 with a special launch event hosted by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), and the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association (FRLA). During the event, dozens of IHG hotel staff participated in an onsite human trafficking prevention training session while Kelley updated attendees on IHG’s anti-human trafficking efforts across the country.

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As a hotel sponsor of It’s a Penalty, 40 IHG-branded hotels in the Miami area distributed 27,000 campaign materials—including posters, leaflets, business cards, wristbands, and lip balms—to guests and staff over a two-week period. IHG hotel staff also participated in a citywide volunteer event on Jan. 25, joining 500 volunteers to distribute nearly 150,000 materials and awareness kits to more than 400 businesses in the Miami area.

As a result of outreach during the campaign, four girls on the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s list of missing children were found and 22 women trapped in human-trafficking operations were rescued. There was also a more than 160 percent increase of calls to the National Human trafficking hotline with the run-up and during the Big Game in Miami compared to the same time period the previous year.

Sarah de Carvalho, CEO of It’s a Penalty, said, “IHG’s partnership with It’s a Penalty Campaign during the Miami 2020 Super Bowl was vital in our efforts to prevent human trafficking. By distributing our materials in their IHG hotels throughout Miami all their staff, management and guests were educated about the signs to look out for and hotlines to report. It is so important that the hotel industry prioritize the prevention of human trafficking in our fight to disrupt it.”

Launched in collaboration with founding partner, A21, the It’s a Penalty campaign is dedicated to educating sports fans and the general public on what classifies as human trafficking and the subsequent penalties tied to those offenses. Knowing that large sporting events can lead to increased instances of human trafficking due to an influx of visitors, the campaign aims to inform people not only on how to identify exploitation and trafficking, but also how to take action and report these breaches of freedom.

IHG continues to work closely with a variety of organizations to share best practices, coordinate efforts and attack the issue on all levels. The company has also engaged in additional collaborative efforts, such as commitments to ECPAT and the criteria of The Code, as well as the AHLA 5-Star Promise. IHG also actively supports non-profit organizations that provide essential goods and services to support the recovery of human trafficking survivors and coordinates regular volunteer opportunities for staff.