Michelle Guelbart, private sector project coordinator for ECPAT-USA, joined Prevue Editor Barbara Scofidio twice during last week’s IMEX show in Las Vegas to educate attendees about human trafficking and how to spot victims. A new ECPAT video, “Does Your Hotel Know?” was featured in their sessions.
Every hotel—including the 4- and 5-star properties used by meeting planners—is a potential site for sex trafficking, which affects nearly 100,000 children each year. Former Subway pitch man Jared Fogle was staying at The Plaza Hotel and the Ritz-Carlton when he was arrested in New York City (he plead guilty to child pornography charges and engaging in sexual contact with a minor).
Signs to look for can be subtle, but when identified in combination, could point to human trafficking. For example, a front desk clerk might think nothing of a young female guest whose partner is holding her identification and wallet for her, but when the room she checks into then has a “Do Not Disturb” sign hanging from the door all week, there’s reason for suspicion. Several hotel companies, including Carlson-Rezidor, Accor, Wyndham and Hilton Worldwide, are leading the fight against trafficking by signing “The Code” (the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct), training their employees, and putting policies and programs in place to address this issue.
Among the signs to look for in hotels:
- A traveler pays in cash one day at a time
- A 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.
Guelbart and Scofidio will be part of an upcoming webinar, “Your Role in Spotting and Combatting Human Trafficking,” sponsored by SPIN (Senior Planners Industry Network) and Prevue, on November 3 at 2 p.m. EST. Other panelists include Lesley Young Cutler, owner, Envision Meetings & Incentives, and Jennifer Keltner, travel and meeting manager for a large automotive company. Half of all proceeds will be donated to ECPAT-USA.