Inside look at how a hotel giant is preventing sex trafficking

Author: Special Projects Reporter Teri Evans / Online Story Written by Michael Mora
Published: Updated:
Marco Island beachfront. (Credit: WINK News)
Marco Island beachfront. (Credit: WINK News)

The front line of stopping sex trafficking could be at the front desk. Soon, the state may require all hotels to train their staff to recognize the signs of a trafficking victim. But the world’s largest hotel chain is not waiting.

Over the past two years, Marriott International has trained 600,000 employees on how to spot the signs of human trafficking. All new hires are taught these signs as well. And there are posters to remind employees and raise awareness.

For example, behind the postcard-picture view from the J.W. Marriott Resort on Marco Island is an undercurrent of vigilance to prevent human trafficking.

Tu Rinsche, the global director of social impact for Marriott International, said every department in the hotel has different types of signs to look for.

“It’s definitely not just one sign that leads to trafficking,” Rinsche said.

Sharon Lockwood, general manager of the J.W. Marriott on Marco Island, said there are several signs that can catch her attention. Some guests may seem disoriented or malnourished, wearing the same clothes day after day. Or the trafficking victim could have multiple bruises in different stages of healing, avoids eye contact or cannot speak freely.

“From a front desk perspective a couple of the signs is people who come in with no luggage,” Lockwood said. “The other thing they look for is people that are wanting to pay with prepaid credit card or prepaid card or cash but only one day at a time.”

If, instead of asking for a room with a view, the person requests a secluded location near an exit – that may present a concern.

Housekeepers, like Naomi Hibbert, also play a role in detection. She is alerted when a “Do Not Disturb” sign hangs for multiple days, along with repeated requests for more linens and towels.

Some customers may just be there on their honeymoon, so the resort considers many signs before checking in with guests or alerting law enforcement. Lockwood said we should all be on alert.

“Even as a guest, I think they can also be able to look for the signs as well,” Lockwood said. “I know when I travel; it’s something I think about.”


If you or someone you know may be a victim of sex trafficking, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

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