The following is a guest post from Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST).

It’s not always easy to see—and it is incredibly prevalent. Traffickers take advantage of the privacy and anonymity offered by the hotel industry to exploit vulnerable youth. They work hard to operate discreetly, so that hotel staff and other guests can miss the signs of child sex trafficking, and because the victims are children, they are often too fearful to summon help from strangers. Hotel staff need to be able to recognize the warning signs of child sex trafficking, so they are able to help victims, protect their hotel’s brand reputation, and keep all hotel guests and employees safe.

While any child can become a victim of trafficking, youth who are homeless or runaways, LGBTQ, African American, Latino, Native American, and children who have been in the foster care system are most vulnerable to this type of exploitation. The sheer number of children being sex trafficked in the United States is troubling. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, they received reports totaling 5,544 potential cases of human trafficking in 2015. Of those tips, 1,621 cases involved children. And those are just the cases that are reported to the tip line. The problem is actually much larger. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says that 1 out of every 6 of the 18,500 children who were reported missing in 2017 were victims of child sex trafficking.

Not only are these numbers staggering, but the negative impact this kind of sexual abuse and trauma has on children is abhorrent. Jane Charles, co-founder of the non-profit organization, StolenYouth, puts the problem into perspective, “People are selling children to other people so that those people can then have sex with them. This is the human rights issue of our time. Good people who see this happening must speak up and be the voice for vulnerable children.” Hotel staff who have daily interaction with guests are in a unique position to be that voice if they suspect potential child sex trafficking.

Read the full article here: