The South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association is educating its members on what signs to look for when identifying potential human trafficking situations.
“Oftentimes the victims are right in front of us,” Columbia College’s Director of Hospitality, Tourism and Event Management Carole Sox said. “In the hospitality business, we have frontline employees at your front desks and they have a real opportunity to — if trained properly — be able to identify the signs, report these types of situations and get help for the victims.”
Sox worked with the association on a members seminar last week to help identify the signs of human trafficking.
“Hotel/motel-based operations are the second-top venue of industries that are used for sex trafficking,” she said. “So we understand that these people are using these facilities. We really thought an active role in education this would be helpful.”
Illicit massage/spa businesses are the number one venue with 714 cases reported nationwide in 2016, according to the Human Trafficking Hotline. That compares to 613 cases involving hotels.
Sox said she is not an expert on human trafficking. But working with other faculty members in the Columbia College program, they realized the issue needs to be addressed.
“At the college, part of our mission is social justice,” she said. “In speaking with several of the colleagues, we just noticed that there was a real tie-in with this piece of hospitality and so we thought that maybe we could make a difference and help educate hoteliers in the area in identifying human traffickers to help the situation overall.”
Sox said the faculty worked with a private investigator for advice on human trafficking education.
Because many victims are being trafficked for sex, hotel employees are in a strategic position to identify potential traffickers and victims,” she said. “Some situations to look for: someone who pays with cash for a room, or pays day-by-day or refuses to provide identification, a request for an isolated room or a room near an exit, housekeeping may not be allowed into the room, various men entering and exiting the room, and excessive requests for clean towels.
She also said some other “red flags” are a second person coming in with the individual renting the room who looks disoriented and is potentially dressed provocatively, particularly if the individual acts in control of the second person.
National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888 or text: 233733