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PCMA Signs on to Combat Child Sex Trafficking at Convening Leaders 2019

As PCMA Convening Leaders 2019 continues in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the association announced that it became a signatory of The Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism, in partnership with ECPAT-USA, also known as The Code.

The Code is a voluntary set of business principles that companies and organizations in the travel and tourism industries can implement to combat the trafficking and exploitation of children.

“PCMA is going to be a signatory of The Code of ECPAT-USA,” PCMA President and CEO Sherrif Karamat said. “Our industry is involved in this crime, and I call it a crime against humanity across the board. This is a global local issue and will hopefully bring the true spotlight to what I consider a human scourge.”

The effort was led by PCMA Foundation Chair and Maritz Global Events President David Peckinpaugh. Maritz is a significant contributor to the effort to end child human trafficking in the hospitality industry.

“As an industry, currently worth over $150 billion, we have the power of advocating and raising awareness of the human trafficking epidemic, and have a stronger voice for the vulnerable, whose opinions and opportunities have been taken away from them,” Peckinpaugh said.

“Together with ECPAT-USA and other participating organizations, we are committed to doing everything in our power to end human trafficking,” he added.

Peckinpaugh mentioned that Maritz is a signer of The Code and financial contributor to ECPAT-USA for hospitality industry training, and also requires its travel directors to participate in the TraffickCam Web app program, which facilitates travelers photographing and sharing photos of hotel room photos to a central database, as a standard practice when on the road. This can help identify trafficking activity.

PCMA Convening Leaders 2019 Attendance Figures

At the time of this article’s original publication on January 8, 2019, the 63rd annual meeting of event manager association PCMA, held January 6-9, 2019, at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, had attracted 3,895 attendees to the conference, with 1,261 participating via livestream.

PCMA said the 2019 attendance figures for Convening Leaders represented the highest percentage of meeting planners in attendance in the history of the meeting.

PCMA President and CEO Sherrif Karamat indicated previously that the government shutdown did not seem to have an impact on the attendees and speakers coming to the annual Convening Leader event.

[Related Content: What the Government Shutdown Means for Meetings]

The announcement of the initial attendance figures during the program represented a departure from previous years when the association was led by Deborah Sexton, who had a tradition—which became a bit of a running joke with meetings and other media covering the event—of sternly reminding that attendance numbers would not be released until after Convening Leaders had concluded.

Karamat, who took the reins of the association following Convening Leaders 2018 in Nashville, treated media to the “latest” attendance numbers during the event’s opening press conference.

“Previously, we never used to give out our numbers,” Karamat said. “But I usually let it all hang out.”

Karamat shared a laugh with Convening Leaders staff present at the press conference when his figures were adjusted—upward—at the end of the proceedings.

Despite the increase in physical attendance, the number of internet participants has declined from the previous year, which Karamat attributed partly to Convening Leaders being held earlier than usual, resulting in it colliding with the holiday season and competing for potential attendees’ attention.

Convening Leaders 2020, in San Francisco, will experience a similar early January scheduling.

Record-Setting Year for Meetings Industry Scholarships

Convening Leaders 2019 (By the Numbers Infographic With Key Stats)PCMA 2018 Foundation Chair Claire Smith said the previous year had been one of transition for the association as it welcomed a new president and CEO.

“At our board meeting we created a new strategic plan to drive the global economic and social transformation through business events,” Smith said of the three-year business plan.

“It really felt like a year of a lot of alignment,” she added.

One of the board’s major initiatives was to examine how members volunteer for the association.

“In talking to our members, there were concerns about committing for a year but not [getting] a year’s worth of a body of work, so people were sort of tokenistic-ly giving their time, and there may not have been a perfect output from their volunteer service,” Smith said. “We wanted to transform that.”

Smith said the boards of PCMA and the PCMA Foundation formed a joint task force to examine different association volunteer models and formed teams to facilitate a reconfiguration of PCMA’s volunteer effort. She noted that a new volunteering form had been rolled out on PCMA’s website that allows members to customize their level and time of commitment to the association.

Additionally, Smith said the PCMA Education Foundation provided a record $664,000 to support four research projects and 156 scholarships for the career development of college students and business events professionals globally.

Other PCMA Foundation highlights include:

  • The support of research, conducted in conjunction with Marriott International, to identify the macro trends that affect the business events industry. The full report is available here.
  • A Future Meetings Space study, conducted with the German Convention Bureau, that concentrated on the user perspective and participant experiences at meetings and conferences, including the identification of different attendee types and how the use of different methodical approaches and technology affects knowledge transfer, learning success, networking and value.
  • A partnership with Hilton Worldwide and NYC & Company on a Room Block of the Future study that seeks to gain a better understanding of attendee accommodation booking behavior. PCMA officials noted the full report will be launched in March 2019 and will combine an analysis of booking data with a survey of event attendees.

Additional PCMA Convening Leaders highlights include:

  • The association’s first Leadership Summit, which was held January 6, and focused on the transfer of knowledge between those organizing and hosting business events.
  • The Forum on Economic and Social Progress, held January 7, which brought together civic stakeholders to discuss the importance of business events to economic planning, industrial strategy and sector development.
  • A new, experientially designed “Innovate & Elevate Arena” at the event that provides two presentation stages, a digital lab showcasing new technologies and events features such as augmented and virtual reality, and a technology bar that offers sessions from experts.
  • Social impact engagements that included a Hospitality Helping Hands project that supported Beverly’s Birthdays to provide kits for mothers in need to help their newborn babies; the assemblage of care kits on behalf of Operation Gratitude to aid first responders and overseas troops; menstrual kits for homeless women on behalf of PERIOD; and street outreach bags for human trafficking victims, provided to the Living With Liberty organization.

Economic Impact of PCMA Convening Leaders on Pittsburgh

Visit Pittsburgh President and CEO Craig T. Davis said that the economic impact of PCMA Convening Leaders 2019 would be approximately $6.1 million over its four days.

Davis in particular welcomed the influx of visitor dollars during the typically slow winter season.

“This is called ‘forced tourism’—you have to go to the city where a convention is placed,” Davis joked, “and it’s an incredible opportunity.”

Davis also touted the benefits of having so many meeting professionals in town.

Statistics from Visit Pittsburgh show that 83 percent of planners who visit the city on a site inspection or familiarization (fam) trip ultimately book a meeting or convention there.

PCMA Convening Leaders Livestream: A livestream of major speakers and educational sessions at PCMA Convening Leaders 2019 is available at

[Read This Next: Future of Business Events Trends Revealed at Convening Leaders 2019]

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About the author
Tyler Davidson | Editor, Vice President & Chief Content Director

Tyler Davidson has covered the travel trade for nearly 30 years. In his current role with Meetings Today, Tyler leads the editorial team on its mission to provide the best meetings content in the industry.