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The Orlando Sentinel

Hotel industry vows united front against sex traffickers

The nation’s hotel industry association vowed Wednesday to fight widespread sex trafficking on its properties, in part by training every employee on warning signs for the crime and how to respond.

The announcement from the American Hotel & Lodging Association — whose members account for more than 90 percent of the industry — comes after two women who said they were forced into prostitution as teenagers filed a lawsuit against three Philadelphia hotels, alleging the businesses ignored and profited from the sexual slavery happening on their premises.

“This is a whole new day,” said Tomas Lares, executive director of United Abolitionists, a Florida nonprofit anti-trafficking group. “Historically, here in Central Florida, there seemed to be no sense of urgency [to address the problem]. Traffickers were able to move girls and boys through the hotels and stay off the radar.”

Lares said hotel workers should be suspicious of trafficking when they see unaccompanied children and teens, an unusual number of people going in and out of the same hotel room, or guests that reject housekeeping services for days on end.

The new industry-wide plan calls not only for universal training of hotel employees, but also signage on hotel properties on how individuals can anonymously report suspected trafficking. The industry plans to work closely with law enforcement, Rogers said, and it already is partnering with several anti-trafficking organizations, including the global nonprofit Polaris and ECPAT-USA, which seeks to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

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