How Hotels Can Identify Human Trafficking

Human trafficking’s need for temporary places of lodging puts hoteliers in a unique position to identify and combat the crime. But staff first needs to be trained to know the warning signs and how to combat them. The American Hotel and Lodging Association (AH&LA) is providing this training through its webinar titled “Child trafficking: Learn how to identify and address.”

The worlds of human trafficking and hotels are closely tied, said Mar Smith, executive director of Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking, or BEST. Therefore, every hotelier should be made aware of the potential risks associated with human trafficking at hotels. Smith cited four in particular safety risks to guests and staff, risk to reputation, financial risks, and legal risks.

Through training efforts and other initiatives, hoteliers can learn to identify common warning signs that indicate human trafficking. They may include:

  • Complaints from other guests about knocking on doors and doors opening and closing throughout the night.
  •  A sudden spike in calls asking for a specific room number without knowing the guest’s name. And housekeepers and other staff might notice more dirty towels than usual, more requests for room service and children on property during school days.
  • An adult checking into a room with a child who does not appear to be related or has a different last name. The child also might appear very subdued and might refuse to make eye contact.
  • The same person coming through the lobby several times without luggage. There might also be a second lookout person loitering in the lobby or bar.
  • A guest frequently entering the property with no luggage or ID
  • Rooms paid for in cash
  • Anyone who appears fearful or disoriented
  • Anyone who shows signs of physical abuse
  • Anyone who is being restricted from moving or communicating
  • Young people made up to look much older
  • Young people with significantly older boyfriends.
  • Refusal of housekeeping
  • Excessive porn or any child pornography, which should be reported immediately
  • Condoms, lubricants and sex toys
  • Multiple credit cards and excessive cash
  • Different men coming and going
  • Individuals loitering or soliciting
  • Individuals exchanging money
  • Use of hotel computers to visit adult websites
  • Requests that might signal possible illegal behavior—perhaps something as blunt as asking for an escort
  • Individuals appearing to monitor common areas.

Hotel staff should not confront the pimp, buyer or victims themselves. They should immediately follow any procedures hotel management already might have in place or simply call 911. Proactively seeking buy-in from law enforcement before an incident occurs is essential. “Care needs to be taken that the police in the area agree with (efforts to combat trafficking) and are onboard,” Menanteau said. If hoteliers plan to call them to report any and all suspicions, police should be briefed of their efforts to combat trafficking in advance.

Learn more at  Patrick Mayock’s article: How to identify and address human trafficking.


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