Late check-in, no luggage, child in tow - signs of slavery?

Hotel guests cross the street outside the Hilton Hotel at Paddington in London, on July 4, 2007.
Hotel guests cross the street outside the Hilton Hotel at Paddington in London, on July 4, 2007. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

LONDON (THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION) - Adult guests who check in with a child, repeat cash bookings or late check-ins without luggage could all be signs of modern slavery under guidance newly issued to staff at a British hotel chain.

The 400 staff at Shiva hotels - from receptionists to human resources staff to cleaners - will be trained as part of a company-wide campaign to tackle modern slavery.

"As a major business sector involving millions of people, the hotel industry has a real opportunity to help prevent these crimes," said Nishma Jethwa, project lead at Shiva Foundation.

The new programme, which includes mandatory staff training and a campaign to raise awareness among customers in the hotel lobby, is part of a growing drive to remove human trafficking from the hospitality sector.

So far, 81 workers have gone through the two-hour training, which gives staff insight into signs of possible trafficking such as alcohol and drugs in a room, or a child staying over.

Each year, 93,000 people are sexually exploited and 4,500 others exploited for labour in European hotels, according to a 2016 study.

Hotel rooms can be used to film pornography, where women and children are sexually exploited, or as a base for traffickers and their victims before victims are sold into sex or forced labour, according to experts.

Hotels also rely on low-skilled and often migrant labour, which increases the risk of labour exploitation, either in the hotel itself or its supply chains.

"It's much wider than the use of hotels. As an employer and large industry, hospitality must also consider supply chains and its own hiring policies," Jethwa told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

In November, major hotel groups, including the Hilton and Shiva Hotels, pledged to examine their supply chains for forced labour, train staff on how to spot and report signs of trafficking, and raise awareness among guests.