What Are the Signs of Human and Child Trafficking In Hotels?


How Hospitality Workers Could Help Stop Modern Slavery:

Every day, thousands of employees working in the hospitality industry witness manifestations of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation and fail to report it—all too often because they do not recognize the signs when they see them. Part of the problem is that there are few bright-line indicators. Rather, most evidence is contextual.

For example, victims will often be checked into or dropped off at a hotel by their trafficker at night or during school hours. Traffickers often take all of their victims belongings and generally deprive them of basic necessities, including food, sleep, and proper clothing. Victims will often show signs of being scared, nervous, lost, and confused, and they will often not possess any form of personal identification. They will likely be inappropriately dressed, look unhealthy and disheveled, and avoid eye contact. They may be accompanied by a person who acts as a dominant figure or by a person whose age difference and appearance is concerning, this person may be a women.

All of these indicators should be visible to front desk staff, the valet, the concierge, and the doorman. Those employees can all see who is coming and going and at what time. They are in a position to notice, for example, a young girl being dropped off at a hotel at midnight on a school night. Those employees can also notice guests who have not checked in—a group that can include victims or buyers who enter hotel premises and proceed directly to the room being used for business.

Housekeeping staff can recognize a different set of indicators given their access to individual rooms. For example, they may recognize large stashes of sex paraphernalia and alcohol, dozens of used condoms in the trash, and large amounts of cash. They may grow suspicious if a room makes frequent requests for new towels or sheets or rejects maid service for an entire week, and even if denied access for the duration of a stay, they can still see what is left behind and make a determination about whether to report red flags to management or law enforcement.

How Hotels Can Be Held Accountable For Human Trafficking Victims:

Not recognizing the signs of sex trafficking is one thing. If hotel employees do recognize the signs, however, and nevertheless allow the criminal activity to proceed on hotel property, then the hotel itself is effectively profiting from the trafficking. In cases where hotel representatives or employees receive financial benefits for permitting these acts to occur, they are directly complicit in human trafficking and can be prosecuted and held criminally and civilly liable under existing federal and state law.

Given that the hospitality industry both wittingly and unwittingly profits from commercial sex trafficking, and given the vital role that hotel staff can—and should—play in combating sex trafficking, lawmakers are increasingly passing laws to impose required training and a legal duty to act to avoid legal liability for profiting off of sex trafficking or failing to detect it.

The Takeaways:

  • Hospitality workers and hotel employees often miss the signs of sex trafficking due to their contextual nature.
  • The front desk staff and door and baggage personnel are in a unique position to recognize strange behavior such as young looking, inappropriately dressed people being dropped off late at night on a school night or during school hours.
  • Housekeeping staff also has a different set of indicators that they can monitor to help out, such as reporting large amounts of sex paraphernalia, cash, or condoms used in a particular room.
  • Hotel employees and their employers are being increasingly held accountable if they were found to aid in this trafficking in any way or if they failed to report trafficking when necessary.

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