Indeed, a group of female travellers who stayed at the hotel earlier this year raised their suspicions in a review posted on the TripAdvisor website.
Using the of that telephone survey, we then visited some of those hotels and, using the same cover story, filmed what we found on hidden camera. But following the s to the spa in the basement, along a gloomy corridor, we found little luxury, just a small room from which more than 10 women are bought and sold for sex.
It was forced to admit that some of its employees did appear to have broken the law. Passing a somewhat suggestive poster of a woman at the entrance, we found a massage centre that we were told was available for the use of male customers only. More on this story. The Kempinski group had already decided to pull out of the hotel in Qingdao before our investigation. About sharing media captionJohn Sudworth: "One of them tells me she's 20 years old, and has sex with up to three clients a day" Prostitution is illegal in China, but the BBC has uncovered evidence of organised prostitution at independently run spas located inside a of well known, Western-brand hotels, as John Sudworth reports for Newsnight.
They will cease to manage it from 15 November, a that just a year after it opened something has gone badly wrong. Whether they ever succeeded is debatable, although for a period, it was driven from public view. But our investigation shows for the first time just how far pimps and prostitutes have moved into the international hotel industry, apparently without its knowledge.
China's communists once claimed to have eradicated prostitution. We asked the Kempinski why it was that when we called the hotel main desk, asking to be transferred to the massage centre, staff put us straight through to the pimp in the basement.
So the allegation that prostitution is thriving inside some hotels in China will not be surprising to anyone with even a passing acquaintance of the travel and tourism industry here. The Kempinski Hotel chain calls itself Europe's oldest luxury hotel group. It is a stark illustration of just how easily reputable foreign businesses in China can become tangled up in vice and criminality. Sophie Richardson is the China Director of Human Rights Watch, which recently called for the Chinese government to remove shanghzi criminal sanctions in force against sex workers.
Today, it is safe to say, the battle has truly been lost. Female guests' warning In response to our findings the Wyndham Hotel Group, which owns the Ramada brand, said it was looking into the matter and issued a statement which said: "Please know that we are a family-oriented company. A BBC colleague, posing as a personal assistant, told the spa receptionists that she was setting up a prostittuion meeting for potential clients who expected sex to be available in the chosen venue.
The s in the spa on the second floor make it very clear that it is not run by the hotel, but is under independent management, and here legitimate shanghai prostitution cost is clearly the mainstay of the business. Founded in Germany, now based in Switzerland, it operates more than 70 five-star hotels around the world, including one shanghzi the city of Qingdao on China's east coast.
Household names There are an estimated four to six million sex workers in China, hiding in plain sight in the barbers' shops, massage parlours and karaoke bars that can be found pretty much everywhere. Now our investigation suggests that the international hotel trade is at least running the risk of handing the government another political opportunity to look tough on foreign business. In a statement, the Intercontinental Hotels Group told us: "Prostitution is strictly prohibited" in all of its hotels, and that third-party run businesses, like the spa, have a "contractual obligation" to abide by that policy.
The prostitute herself told us that the bill for her services could be settled at checkout through the hotel main-desk. But it added, "As long as there are people profiting from tragic practices, we believe no member of the travel and tourism industry can ever guarantee these events will not occur in the future.
On paper at least, the ideological sanctimony is undiminished and prostitution remains illegal, but in practice the party rules over a country in which sex is bought and sold on an industrial scale. But many observers wondered why GSK was being singled out when corruption is widely alleged to be endemic in China's domestic pharmaceutical industry. With very little effort, we have found the sex trade operating from inside hotels that are household names in Europe and America, seemingly with little fear of detection.
Hotel denials Both the Intercontinental and the Kempinski deny any knowledge of the prostitution we have found.
But now our investigation shows that the widespread use of third-party-run spas means that the sex trade has gained a much firmer foothold than the industry itself appears to realise. While prostitution might be easy to find in China, prostitutes continue to face danger not just from clients but the police too.
Shaanghai the spa staff showed little hesitation in telling us that sex could be supplied to those who ask for it. But there appeared to be little secrecy about what was on offer.
The Intercontinental Hotel has now closed the spa. The third hotel we visited was the Ramada Plaza in the city of Zhengzhou.
He said that there is more that some hotels could be doing to keep the sex trade away from their doors. The man on the reception desk told us that sex could be provided and that more than 20 women worked there. Once again, we followed the s to the third-party-run spa, which was on the sixth floor. In Qingdao, as well as what we found in the Kempinski Hotel we found sex on sale in the Intercontinental, part of the British-based hotel chain.