Roughly 100,000 kids are victims of sex trafficking in the United States, according to ECPAT-USA, a nonprofit that works to end commercial sexual exploitation of children.
Now the organization is launching a campaign to get hotels to set policies against child prostitution — and it wants travelers to pay attention.
Hotel rooms across the nation, ranging from budget motels to luxury resorts, are sites for the sexual exploitation of minors, according to ECPAT-USA.
Called “Does Your Hotel Know?” the campaign begins Wednesday. It is also designed to educate travelers and hotels to recognize the signs of child trafficking.
Travel and tour businesses, as well as hotels, can sign on to a voluntary business code developed by ECPAT-USA.
“In the U.S., we have 40 [that have signed]” said Carol Smolenski, executive director of ECPAT-USA. “Internationally, about 400 have signed.”
Among them is Hilton Worldwide.
“[Hilton] has rolled out training and made it available to brands across the world,” she said.
The code calls for training employees in children’s rights and how to report suspected prostitution. It calls for these businesses to set policies and procedures against child trafficking.
Travelers are encouraged to check websites of the hotels and tour operators for a stated policy against child trafficking — and to ask them to create policies if they aren’t in place.
ECPAT-USA has a checklist of practices hotels can use to identify and combat child exploitation.
Signs of child pimping include an adult paying for one night in cash, holding on to the child’s identification, having numbers of male visitors in the room and a person watching the door. Youngsters may have tattoos that a pimp uses to brand them as property.
Data on child sex exploitation is difficult to gather, but research appears to indicate almost as many underage boys as girls are pimped, she said.
And practices vary depending on the type of hotel.
In less expensive hotels — such as extended-stay ones — pimps rent rooms and then advertise girls or boys on prostitution websites such as backpage.com, Smolenski said.
In expensive hotels, it’s more likely that individual hotel customers, rather than pimps, will bring in a boy or girl, she said.
Hotel management company Real Hospitality Group, whose properties include Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott and Wyndham hotels, has been training employees in its New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland hotels.
These employees “are in a unique position to be able to identify victims and alert authorities,” said Ben Seidel, president and CEO of the company.
Front-desk clerks and hotel housekeepers are among the employees in a position to see something that isn’t right, according to ECPAT-USA.
Companies that have put policies in place also include Wyndham, Carlson Companies, Orbitz and Delta Airlines, according to ECPAT-USA.
See ECPAT-USA’s video about trafficking.