PHOTO: New York City's Plaza Hotel. (photo via Flickr/Alan Light)
An online petition started earlier this year by a sex-trafficking victim has sparked a push for legislation in New York that would require hotels to post signage explaining sex trafficking and train employees to recognize victims.
The New York Times reported the petition, which was started by Anneke Lucas, has over 54,000 signatures.
Assemblywoman Amy Paulin has introduced the bill and it's currently in the Economic Development Committee. If passed, the bill would apply to all lodging facilities, which include hotels, motels, resorts and inns.
"This is too important," Paulin told the Times. "We know girls are being trafficked in hotels, and the more awareness we can bring, the greater potential we have of rescuing them and preventing future victims."
"Pimps are clever and can avoid some hotels. But they can't avoid all hotels."
The legislation would mandate that hotel staff members receive training from an approved task force and that hotels display the number for the National Human Trafficking Hotline in plain view in places like the lobby and restrooms.
Some of the potential indicators of sex trafficking are guests booking more than one room, paying by the hour with cash and men traveling with younger girls who appear subjugated and make little eye contact.
According to the Times, Lucas plans to push for similar legislation in other states, including Washington. Connecticut adopted a similar law last year.
Beyond sex trafficking, a new report from nonprofit organization Polaris found that a surprising number of victims of labor trafficking exist within the hospitality industry. Polaris' report uncovered 124 human trafficking cases reported in the hotel, motel, resort and casino industries between December 2007 and December 2016, and another 510 cases involving labor exploitation.
READ MORE: How You Can Help Stop Human Trafficking From Your Hotel Room
"Victims of labor trafficking have been found in hospitality businesses such as hotels, motels, resorts, or casinos working as front desk attendants, bell staff, and, most frequently, in housekeeping," Polaris states on its website. "Most are women and men from Jamaica, the Philippines, and India, and typically they are told that they will make lucrative wages to support family back home."
For years now the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) has been working to combat trafficking and exploitation, with many brands having adopted training programs for staff members.
In addition to keeping an eye open, travelers can download the TraffickCam app to submit photos of their hotel room that can be matched against a database used by police to fight trafficking.