From five-star boutique properties to low-rent rooms for rent along the interstate, hotel workers are trained to not pry into their guests’ private lives. But with growing concern over forced prostitution and other forms of human trafficking, the hospitality industry is starting to demand that its employees get a bit nosier.
Recently a group of local hotel managers, housekeepers, front desk clerks and maintenance workers gathered
for training session sponsored by the Central Missouri Stop Human Trafficking Coalition. Workshop organizers said that hospitality workers are particularly valuable in recognizing possible warning signs of abuse, whether the victims are teenage sex slaves or immigrant housekeepers turning over the wages to a labor boss.
Susan Bell, general manager of the Hampton Inn & Suites near the University of Missouri and president of the Columbia Hospitality Association, said, “In our industry, if a community doesn’t feel safe, we’re not going to draw visitors.” The Columbia session is part of a broader nationwide effort to combat human trafficking in the travel and tourism industry. In September 2012, Texas-based Sabre Holding, which owns Travelocity, unveiled a training program called Passport to Freedom. Companies such as Delta Air Lines, Hilton and Wyndham Worldwide are among the hundreds to have signed a voluntary code of conduct to deter child prostitution.
Coalition trainer Deb Hume, a University of Missouri public health professor, outlined some of the potential warning signs: guests without luggage; cash transactions; third-party reservations; repeated refusals of requests to clean rooms; frequent visitors; and more obvious signs, such as teens wearing overly suggestive clothing and young guests accompanied by older companions who don’t appear to be family members.
In the end, Hume’s advice boiled down to a simple message: “Trust your instincts.”
Learn more at Alan Scher Zagier’s San Francisco Chronicle article: Hotel workers enlisted in human trafficking fight.