Sex Trafficking in Hotels

Hotel front-desk employees might not think twice when checking in a young female guest whose partner is holding her identification and wallet for her. Housekeepers may carry on with their work while passing by the room that has had a “do not disturb” sign hanging from the door all week. Restaurant employees might go about their daily duties when a guest comes into the bar a few times, entertaining different individuals each time, during their stay in a new city. What these employees might not consider is that these might not be their typical guests; they could be victims of the sex trafficking trade.

Trafficker may check into a hotel, unbeknownst to employees, and run their operations out of rooms or use other hotel rooms to meet with “buyers.” Standard hospitality training does not sensitize employees to the issue of sex trafficking in hotels and because of this, traffickers believe hotels are anonymous and low-risk.

The travel industry, and especially the hospitality sector, is stepping up to mitigate child sex trafficking. Companies like Hilton Worldwide, Carlson Companies, Wyndham Worldwide and Accor are among those international leaders who have already signed the The Code – Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct. These companies have partnered with ECPAT to implement The Code. ECPAT is a global organization with a mission to protect children from all forms of commercial sexual exploitation including trafficking.

Members of The Code create ethical policies that publicly state their repudiation for the practice. They routinely add clauses into their contracts that ask their suppliers and partners to do the same. Importantly, signers of The Code provide training to employees so they know how to identify and appropriately react to suspicions of child sex trafficking. In addition, travel buyers are more frequently asking for information from hoteliers about their child sex trafficking policies and Code Membership.

Know the Signs

After learning about child sex trafficking, it’s hard for people to miss the signs. Some things you might see include:

  • A traveler that pays in cash one day at a time
  • The guest escorts various men into their room
  • An older male or female stays around the room until the visitors leave, watching the door.
  • The victim will rarely be left alone.
  • The victim will also have little control of money and identification.

These signs on their own might have every day normal explanations but when coupled together could be an incidence of sex trafficking which should be reported immediately to the manager on duty to follow appropriate protocols for responding to this issue.

Learn more at Michelle Guelbart’s ECPAT-USA article: Sex Trafficking in Hotels – Does Your Team Know the Signs?


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