Hospitality and Security: Identifying and tackling trafficking in hotels

Every year millions of hotel nights are booked in Amsterdam. Hotels offer hospitality as a service. They are bound to take care of their guests too and in a way offer security. Unfortunately, this hospitality is also abused in the form of illegal prostitution and human trafficking. Crimes that seriously violate human dignity and grossly harm the physical and mental integrity of victims. The Public Prosecution Service, the Police and Koninklijke Horeca Nederland (KHN) are already working closely together to combat human trafficking. But what can you, as a hospitality professional do about it?

Sexual exploitation in the hospitality industry

Sexual exploitation is the most common form of human trafficking, in which people are forced to have sex through blackmail, fear or violence. In the Netherlands there are an estimated 3,000 Dutch victims of sexual intercourse every year including some 1,300 minors ( 

The “facilitator”

Unfortunately, these types of practices are increasingly taking place in hotels. When illegal human trafficking takes place in a hotel, that hotel can be seen as the “facilitator”. This year alone (March 2021), 3 hotels in Amsterdam have been closed by the municipality due to the facilitation of illegal prostitution. The consequences for the hoteliers are major. The hotel will be closed for at least three months, or later till the operator has submitted a business plan for improvement, which has to be approved by the municipality (Municipality of Amsterdam). The operator must demonstrate which measures the hotel will take to prevent illegal prostitution from being facilitated in the future. One of the measures is to have staff follow training.

Sometimes you do not recognize the signals in time, even though it happens in front of you. There are also misconceptions, for example that men cannot become victims of human trafficking. Experience is needed to recognize the signals, but staff can also be made aware of this and trained on it. Because where does hospitality stop, and where does social responsibility begin?

The signals

You can often read a lot from the posture of the checking-in guest. Often the party that checks-in consists of a man and a woman, or two men and a woman. He has a controlling attitude towards the woman, she makes little or no eye contact, her passport is in his possession, there is little communication between the couple or he keeps a close eye on her. Maybe it is a combination of signals. In addition, this guest often pays in cash, so that the payment cannot be traced back to him and he can launder his money.

Do you suspect the girl is a minor? Then you can ask for her identity card. A minor person is not allowed to check in without the consent of his or her parents.

Another signal can be conspicuous behavior after check-in, for example the state in which the guest leaves the hotel room. You can think of excessive use of towels. Victims of sexual exploitation like to take a shower after a customer visit. The sheets of the bed are also changed regularly. In order not to miss these signals, it is important not only to train the reception to recognize signals, but also to involve housekeeping, the technical service and possibly the concierge.

What are some more suspicious signs? Guests who keep the curtains closed and the “do not disturb” card on the door for the entire stay may give cause for suspicion. In such a case, housekeeping can inform the manager about this, so that he can take a look.

Communication is key

As with all activities, communication between colleagues is very important. Always listen to your gut feeling! If you have a suspicion or are unsure, discuss it with a colleague. Make a note in the reservation so that your colleagues are also aware of your suspicion. In this way they can also keep an eye on things. In addition, as always, your own safety is most important. Therefore, never investigate yourself and if you have a suspicion do not touch anything in the room: fingerprints and DNA can serve as evidence. Always inform your manager. Is he/she not taking action? Then call the police yourself.

Victims of human trafficking often fear their pimps, or may be in love with their pimps. The chance that they can get out of this situation themselves is very small. When we, as fellow human beings, work together, we can help the victims and tackle the problem in our town!

Our training

We Are Key offers training courses in both Dutch and English for hotels, restaurants and bars. During this training, employees learn:

  1. Which different signals can indicate sexual exploitation?
  2. How to act in different situations?
  3. What they can do to prevent the hotel from being used as a location for sexual exploitation?

This training also emphasizes on your own safety.
Written by Nadja Carillo