By Colleen Isherwood
Child prostitution. Child pornography. Trafficking of children for sexual purposes. These are problems all around the world, and of course these things can happen here in our Canadian hotels.
While statistics for Canada are not readily available, a 2010 study by the Schapiro Group pointed out that each month, more than 210 girls are sold for sex an average of five times per day in Minnesota—hardly a notorious hotbed of criminal activity. According to the study, that’s only through the Internet and escort services and does not include hotel, street or gang activity. And in the past 15 years, experts have noted a shift of activity from the streets to hotel rooms.
The tourism industry is fighting back against these issues with a program called ECPAT—which stands for End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes Code of Conduct. To those who are familiar with it, it’s referred to simply as The Code.
This past summer, Carlson and Hilton, along with 42 other companies around the world, were recognized by The Code as top members for 2014, as The Code celebrated its 10th anniversary.
Carlson was one of the founding members.
“We had the privilege to launch The Code back in 2004 alongside Marilyn Carlson Nelson,” said Carol Smolenski, executive director of ECPAT-USA, the local code representative in the United States.
Hilton achieved Top Member status for the first time this year. “Hilton Worldwide believes strongly in ECPAT’s important mission to protect children from sexual exploitation and to bring greater attention and action to the issues surrounding child trafficking,” said Jennifer Silberman, vice president, corporate responsibility, Hilton Worldwide, in a statement on ECPAT’s Facebook page.
Member companies agree to take six steps that include establishing policies and procedures, training of staff and annual reporting.
According to ECPAT, there are a number things lodging staff should look for. While any one of these activities could be innocuous, taken together they could provide warning signs. These include:
o Check in without luggage;
o Girls who seem disoriented and even dishevelled;
o Girls with tattoos implying ownership;
o Men who seem controlling of young women by not allowing them to talk or walk freely;
o Rooms paid in cash;
o Guests who refuse housekeeping;
o Pornography in the guestroom;
o Different men coming and going from a guest room;
o Males waiting outside a guest room, in the stairway or meeting others in the parking lot; or
o Exchanges of money.
Under no circumstances should a hotel staff member, including the general manager, intervene on their own, says Michelle Guelbart of ECPAT—leave that to the police.
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“It is important to raise awareness with hotel staff. Hotels are too often used by traffickers who count on the staff being unaware that their hotel is being used for this criminal activity,” Brenda Schultz, director, responsible business for Carlson Rezidor, told CLN.
“The Code members can access an e-learning tool; however, if a hotel does not belong to The Code, I would suggest they utilize the American Hotel and Lodging Association’s human trafficking training available to members for $20 and non-members for $30. The AHLA training was created in conjunction with ECPAT USA and is available to Canadians.”
If your individual hotel or your company is interested in learning more, e-mail Mike Nedelko at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.thecode.org/join.
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