Our Research Initiatives

Our Research Initiatives

Research Paper Publications

Mitigating the Scale, Reach, and Impact of Human Trafficking at Major Events: A North American Perspective

Human trafficking is a global problem with challenges for societies and those agencies tasked with the protection of the public. Much human trafficking is in the form of sex or labor trafficking with over 22,000 cases reported in the US alone in 2019. Although prevalent in many industries, the event industry is particularly vulnerable to human trafficking with tourism destinations and the major events they host prone to such activity. This exploratory study, underpinned by collaboration theory, adopts a qualitative approach by interviewing stakeholders in the US to identify the causes, scale, reach, and impact of human trafficking in the context of major events. The study then identifies those initiatives designed and implemented to help mitigate the occurrences of human trafficking activity and minimize the damage to individuals and negative reputation for those major events caught up in this modern-day criminality.

Authors: Wickey, J., Fyall, A, Panse, G., & Ronzoni, G (2023)

Journal: Event Management Journal

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A Qualitative Assessment of Hotel Employee Engagement in Anti-Human-Trafficking Initiatives

The hospitality industry is particularly vulnerable to human trafficking crimes. Unfortunately, prior research has not sufficiently tackled this important issue. This study investigates hotel employees’ motivation and engagement in anti-human-trafficking initiatives by conducting in-depth qualitative interviews. A total of 28 hotel professionals, ranging from managers to frontline staff members, who work at both international chains and independent hotel properties, participated in the investigation. Data were analyzed using the MAXQDA Pro 12 package. Results identified five main themes (leadership, organizational system, peer support, technology, and training) consisting of 21 factors that impact hotel employees’ engagement in anti-human-trafficking initiatives. The study findings are valuable to hotel practitioners, policymakers, and society at large in order to help prevent human trafficking crimes.

Authors: Zhang, T., Ronzoni, G., Medeiros, M., & Bufquin, D. (2022)

Journal: International Journal of Hospitality Management

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Research Grants

2024 Phase 1 of the HHS Innovation Challenge to Prevent Human Trafficking Among Women and Girls.

  • Year: 2024
  • Grant: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Amount: Awarded $50,000
  • Foundation: US Department of State
  • PI: Zhang, T., Co-PI: Wickey Byrd, J.

2024 TIP Office International Programs to Combat Human Trafficking Technical Assistance for Survivor Leadership Programming

  • Year: 2024
  • Grant: US Department of State
  • Amount: Proposed $750,000
  • Foundation: US Department of State
  • PI: Zhang, T., Co-PI: Wickey Byrd, J.

Empowering Youth Against Trafficking: AI-Driven Monitoring and Educational Outreach for Preventing Teen Exploitation

  • Year: 2024
  • Grant: State of Florida
  • Amount: Proposed $1,200,000
  • Foundation: State of Florida
  • PI: Wickey Byrd, J., Co-PI: Zhang, T.

Empowering Communities through Expanded “Shielding Women and Girls” Curriculum

  • Year: 2024
  • Grant: Challenge.Gov
  • Amount: Proposed $300,000
  • Foundation: OAK Foundation
  • PI: Zhang, T., Co-PI: Wickey Byrd, J.

Revolutionizing Human Trafficking Victim Services: Evaluating and Optimizing Service Provision Models through Collaborative AI Machine Learning Analysis

  • Year: 2023
  • Grant: Research and Evaluation of Trafficking in Persons
  • Amount: Proposed $1,771,933
  • Foundation: National Institute of Justice
  • PI: Zhang, T., Co-PI: Potter, R.H., Hua, N., Guo, Z., Sui, N., Lares, T., Upneja, A., and Mody, M.

Labor Trafficking in the Restaurant Sector: Filling Gaps in Knowledge and Practice

  • Year: 2022
  • Grant: Research and Evaluation of Trafficking in Persons
  • Amount: Proposed $2,443,046
  • Foundation: National Institute of Justice
  • PI: Zhang, T., Co-PIs: Potter, R.H., Bufquin, D., and Wickey, J.

Developing An AI-based Support System for Youth Victims of Human Trafficking in Hispanic Communities

  • Year: 2022
  • Grant: Research Grants on Improving the Use of Research Evidence
  • Amount: Proposed $800,000
  • Foundation: William T. Grant Foundation
  • PI: Zhang, T., Co-PIs: Nan, H., Potter, R.H., Guo, Z., Upneja, A., and Sui, N.

Labor Trafficking in the Restaurant Sector: Filling Gaps in Knowledge and Practice

  • Year: 2021
  • Grant: Research and Evaluation of Trafficking in Persons
  • Amount: Proposed $599,993
  • Foundation: National Institute of Justice
  • PI: Zhang, T., Co-PIs: Potter, R.H. and Bufquin, D.

Leveraging Mobile Technologies to Promote Hotel Employees’ Engagement with Counter Human Trafficking Initiatives

  • Year: 2019
  • Grant: Rosen College Dean’s Research Clusters Program
  • Amount: Awarded $10,000
  • Foundation: University of Central Florida, Rosen College of Hospitality Management
  • PI: Zhang, T.

Please consider supporting the UCF HTMS Center by purchasing a copy of this comprehensive human trafficking textbook. All proceeds go to support the HTMS Center and its anti-trafficking efforts. You can find the book here.