No Vacancy: How Hotels Can Fight Trafficking

From policies to training that matters—hotels can make a difference.

Child sex trafficking is a crime that happens across the United States, often in hotel rooms. While the hospitality industry is not responsible for trafficking, it does have an important role to play in helping to stop it.  

ECPAT-USA recently released a report, No Vacancy for Child Sex Traffickers, which shows the extent and impact of our training efforts. Over the next few weeks, we will share a series of blogs that will teach you about the issue, highlight stakeholders who can help fight child sex trafficking, and give you ideas from the report for how to get involved. If you work in the hospitality industry, this blog is for you! If not, please share it with your friends and family who can have a direct impact.

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With the use of online classified ads, child sex trafficking is not only on the streets, but also behind the closed doors of local hotel rooms. Pimps rent rooms in hotels, then go online to create an ad in adult sexual services pages, and finally sell victims right out of the hotel or have victims meet purchasers at nearby hotels.  

Hotel rooms are a preferred venue for the sale of children because traffickers believe they are anonymous at hotels, giving them a sense that there is little risk in their behavior. They also believe that hotels are risk-free because they believe training on indicators of child sex trafficking is not widespread.

Hotels can help stop child sex trafficking by training their associates. Hotel associates are more likely to witness trafficking than the average person. Training teaches people working in hotels how to identify instances of child sex trafficking and how to safely and effectively address any instances they may see.

Many hotels are implementing training. No Vacancy for Child Sex Traffickers, shows that half of all hotels in the United States have had training for their associates.

Still, there is more work to be done. While 40% of hotel properties in the United States have access to ECPAT training, not all training is reaching associates on the ground level.

 

What Hotels Can Do

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Adopt policies and procedures related to the sexual exploitation of children and have resources available to properties. Hospitality brands must develop policies that state a zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation of children and develop procedures to respond to suspected instances of such exploitation.

Official policies send a message to associates that putting an end to the commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking is important to the company. Companies must also provide their employees with a protocol (procedure) for responding to any suspicions of exploitation.

One example of a great policy against the sexual exploitation of children is the Hyatt Hotels Corporation Human Rights Statement. In addition to stating a clear repudiation and zero tolerance policy of child sex trafficking, the Hyatt statement also references human rights standards and states their open door policy to encourage associates to report any incidents.

Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group’s Code of Business Conduct and Ethics is another excellent example of a hotel brand policy. Their policy clearly states what associates should do if they suspect an instance of child sex trafficking:  “All employees must be vigilant and immediately report to managers, supervisors, the Legal department or the Business Conduct and Ethics Hotline, as appropriate, all situations that come to their attention in the Company’s premises or businesses where sexual exploitation of children is suspected or appears to be intended.”

Whatever a company’s reporting protocol is, it should be clearly stated and easy to find in their anti-trafficking policy.

Hotel brands interested in creating a policy and procedures related to the sexual exploitation of children can contact ECPAT-USA.

Hotels must also mandate that all associates working in all hotel properties, whether they are franchised OR owned, have training.

Hotel brands that offer training for their employees have taken an important step to combat child sexual exploitation, but what does that training do if it is not being used? This issue must become part of on-the-job training.

Employees who are well-trained on the issue will comfortably execute their company’s protocol for responding to the issue. This prevents employees from frantically reacting to situations, which could lead a violent response from an exploiter.

While the data in the report does show that ECPAT-USA training has far reach, the study also found that training does not always reach the front-line of hotels. Some hotel properties whose parent companies have policies and commitments to protect children are not training on the issue. This is an ongoing challenge with hotels that do not mandate but only suggest training to properties in their portfolio.

A staggering 52% of hotel properties in the U.S. are franchised, rather than owned and operated by hotel brands themselves, which means the brand is more hands-off. But for this issue, things need to be different! Training must be required at franchised properties.

To date, a number of brands have moved towards requiring instead of suggesting training to properties and other brands must follow. Marriott mandates human trafficking training for all associates in all of their properties, including franchisees. Similarly, as a brand standard, Hyatt International mandates that all hotels take human trafficking training but does not specify which training franchised hotels participate in.

In addition to being the right thing to do, taking these steps can protect hotels from legal, financial, or image problems should an instance of child sex trafficking occur at one of their properties.

To learn all of the steps hotels must take, or for more information, visit ecpatusa.org/novacancy.