COMBAT Project Aims to Tackle Hotel Industry’s Role in Human Trafficking


A major new project, known as COMBAT, has revealed the extent to which Europe’s hotel industry is vulnerable to trafficking in human beings often described as a modern-day form of slavery. According to the study, over 93,000 sex slaves and 4,500 labour slaves are exploited in European hotels every year, and an estimated 12,500 labour slaves are exploited in restaurants

The project provides a practical toolkit designed for hotel businesses to help them prevent their premises being used by human traffickers.

The two-year project, co-funded by the Prevention of and Fight against Crime Programme of the European Commission, had four project partners – Oxford Brookes University and the University of West London in the UK, and the Lapland University of Applied Sciences in Finland, along with the Ratiu Centre for Democracy, a non-governmental organisation based in Romania.

The multi-disciplinary team, whose members have expertise in law, security, psychology and hospitality, received support and insights from a wide range of industry and NGO stakeholders.

Key findings include:

  • Of over 1.1 million victims of human trafficking across Europe annually, over 93,000 sex slaves and 4500 labour slaves are exploited in hotels and 12,500 labour slaves are exploited in restaurants.
  • Trafficking in human beings is significantly under-reported. This results primarily from different interpretations of ‘human trafficking’ and different ways of recording trafficking incidents in countries across Europe.
  • Evidence drawn from a range of crime prevention and law enforcement agencies highlights common routes of human trafficking across Europe. These routes can be used by hospitality and tourism businesses to identify ‘higher risk’ properties within their portfolios.

The project team has created a comprehensive yet accessible toolkit for hospitality businesses containing:

  • Three reference guides (aimed at company boards, senior managers and operational staff) that propose concrete actions to identify and prevent human trafficking.
  • Case studies of victims, describing their experiences of human trafficking (child sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, labour exploitation in supply chains and hotel construction, forced criminality in hotels, forced prostitution, and bonded labour) that can be used for training purposes.
  • Additional resources to create awareness and identify barriers to proactively combat human trafficking.