by Barbara Scofidio
I’m amazed at how often I still hear that question. Even after most of the major hotel companies and meeting industry associations have signed what’s known as “The Code” (the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct), forging a commitment to train their employees to spot the signs of sex slavery. Even after the largest-ever FBI sting last October led to 150 arrests in one week (and saved 150 children) in the same cities—and hotels—we all meet in.
Meeting planners can make a huge difference in growing awareness among our hotel and other vendor partners. Start by bringing up the subject in casual conversation with the director of sales or GM, asking what policies and procedures the hotel has in place around trafficking. There have been situations where these discussions have led to hotels signing the Code so their employees are trained to spot the signs. Once they realize there isn’t a big financial burden, they’re more apt to get involved. Other planners build language right into their RFPs. The leading organization in the U.S., ECPAT, has resources that can help you get started.
So the next time someone asks you, “What does human trafficking have to do with my job?” I suggest you answer with two responses:
1) Did you know it happens all the time in four- and five-star hotels? (Subway spokesperson Jared Fogle made headlines when he was arrested for child prostitution at The Plaza in NYC.)
2) You travel, don’t you? Traffickers move victims across cities and countries using air and ground transportation companies. If you think you spotted something when you were on a trip, you probably did.
Those two answers will help build awareness so that, one day, this question is never asked again.
Barbara Scofidio is editor of Prevue magazine and recently spoke on human trafficking at SPINCon.
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