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Opinion: the battle against prostitution in hotels

Prostitution in hotels is a major issue for the accommodation industry

By RICHARD MUNRO

The highest priority for operators of accommodation businesses is ensuring that their guests are satisfied. If they aren’t, they won’t return and they won’t recommend that others stay there either. If this happens, the business is irreparably damaged.

That’s why when guests are involved in activities that disrupt other guests, then the owner, operator, licensee or manager should have the power to either end the stay of people who engage in such activities or refuse to have them as guests on the basis that disruptive behaviour could take place. The owner, operator, licensee or manager needs to preserve the amenity for the benefit of all guests to ensure their tourism experience is enhanced by their stay.

There are many activities that take place in accommodation rooms which have the potential to disrupt other guests. These may include playing loud music late at night, getting intoxicated or operating a hair-dressing business from within guest rooms. If these sorts of activities negatively impact on the experience of other guests, then appropriate action should be taken and the activity should be stopped. There is also the matter of a business operating from within another business, which has ramifications for insurance, occupational health and safety and building fire safety, among other things.

Prostitution is not illegal in most, if not all, Australian jurisdictions. Where the conduct of sex workers is an issue for the accommodation industry is when they conduct their business in accommodation rooms and it disrupts other guests. There has been recent publicity about this being more of an issue in regional Australia where resource industry workers frequently stay. No matter where such disruptive activity takes place it’s important that operators have the legal right to take steps to ensure that it does not persist. Liquor Legislation is very clear on this point for those operators holding a liquor license.

The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) has found in favour of a sex worker in an anti-discrimination case involving a motel in regional Queensland. This judgment has the potential to affect other accommodation operators, which is why the Accommodation Association is playing a lead role in the industry’s response to it.

The Association is yet to examine the detail of the judgment so it’s difficult to make specific comments about the case. The ruling may yet be subject to appeal.

To its credit, the Queensland Government has indicated it has a similar position to the Accommodation Association on this issue (that the operator of the business should be able to make decisions about the conduct of guests) and, should it be necessary, it will take legal and or legislative steps to reinforce this. It is further evidence of the Government’s strong commitment to tourism and our industry welcomes its stance.

Operators of accommodation businesses are seeking certainty on this important issue and the Accommodation Association will continue to work on providing this.

Richard Munro is the Chief Executive Officer of the Accommodation Association of Australia

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