The company says it will offer unique classes to all staff in Sweden, designed to make them more aware of prostitution.
“I wouldn’t say it is a huge problem in hotels, but it exists. It would be naive to think that this does not go on,” Pernilla Johansson, Hotel Manager at Scandic Park in Stockholm, told The Local.
Part of a Swedish government initiative and organised by Länsstyrelsen Stockholm (the county's administrative board) in co-operation with the police, staff are to be given special “prostitution lessons”, including watching an educational video designed to help them better identify clues that suggest plans to buy or sell sex in Swedish hotels.
Inger Mattsson, Scandic Sustainable Business Manager, told The Local: “The first step is to see all guests. Then, when you hear something behind the walls that you should not be hearing, you call the police. But it’s a complex issue. There is not just one thing alone that will make a sex buyer stand out from the crowd.”
“It is incredibly important that there won’t be a witch hunt on individual customers, that is why we need to learn how to recognise the actual signs and not to judge someone just on how they look or act. And it is not just foreigners involved, as many people would believe – it is just as much a domestic problem,” Pernilla Johansson added.
Speaking to Swedish broadcaster SVT, Simon Häggström, Chief Inspector of Stockholm police's prostitution division said that some hotel chains were currently better than others at reporting suspected sex purchases and advised all staff to call police immediately if they suspected prostitution .
“There are around 250-300 prostitutes, mostly women, who appear in online ads on a typical weekday. The majority of them sell themselves in apartments and hotels,” he said.
It is not illegal to sell sexual services in Sweden, but in 1999 it became the first country in the world to criminalise buying sex, in a move designed to punish clients rather than those working in the industry.The law helped halve the number of streetwalkers in Sweden's cities by 2010, but the country is still facing a growing problem of sex sold over the internet, with increasing numbers of meetings in hotels and hired apartments now also arranged using mobile apps.
Following a directive issued by the Swedish government in 2014, Länsstyrelsen Stockholm is working with the police and industry leaders to help combat prostitution in the hotel, restaurant and taxi industries in Sweden's capital.