Meetings industry veteran Sandy Biback, who worked as a planner in a variety of capacities over a 35-year career, has jumped headlong into a new all-consuming endeavor since retiring: battling human trafficking through Meeting Professionals Against Human Trafficking, or MPAHT.
“Approximately 40.3 million people, sadly, are part of modern slavery,” Biback said.
“Whether [that’s] sex exploitation of mostly young girls, slave labor picking the cotton that goes into hotel uniforms, working in manufacturing plants making those uniforms, to the coffee and vegetables being picked that appear in hotel dining rooms,” she added.
According to statistics from the Polaris Project, the impact of human trafficking is staggering:
- 40.3 million worldwide people are affected worldwide.
- 71% of those trafficked are female and 29% are male.
- Human trafficking is estimated to be a $354 billion industry.
How Meeting Professionals Can Fight Human Trafficking
Simply by its nature, the hospitality industry is a prime, unwitting facilitator of human trafficking due to hotel rooms providing a relatively anonymous setting for abuse.
That also includes the somewhat transitory, entry-level jobs that are associated with many aspects of allowing trafficking to occur.
[Related Content: Veteran Planner Sandy Biback Fights Human Trafficking]
Meeting planners and suppliers are in a key position to fight human trafficking.
They are a major buyer of hotel rooms, have a connection with thousands of people who occupy those rooms, and hold leverage via contracts with facilities to demand that they have policies in place to combat the scourge.
“We in the hospitality industry are ideally positioned to fight trafficking,” Biback said. “So much sexual exploitation takes place in hotels—and understand this is five-star hotels, one-star hotels and everything in between. Learn what to look for and create a culture in your property of what to do and what the steps are for reporting it.
"You could be wrong—and that’s okay—or you could be right and save a life," she added.
Top-Level Tips to Fight Human Trafficking
Following are top-level tips to help both venues and planners fight human trafficking:
Planners: Advise your partners of your commitment to fighting sex trafficking in our industry. Encourage them to do the same by asking questions in RFPs.
Also consider adding these zero tolerance clauses to contracts:
Zero Tolerance Clause No. 1:
"The Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism (The Code) was developed by ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes) to provide awareness, tools and support to the hospitality and tourism industry to end the sex trafficking of children.
"Has your Hotel signed The Code? YES/NO."
Zero Tolerance Clause No. 2:
"We express our values through every aspect of our operations and we engage with the hospitality and tourism industry through our travel and conferences. To this end, we believe in partnering with industry suppliers which demonstrate an awareness of the industry’s role in human trafficking. Does your property provide anti-trafficking information for employees?
"If yes, please explain."
Venues: Know the signs to fight human trafficking.
Become a member of The Code at http://www.thecode.org/about/.
Commit to training staff to be aware and know the signs of a sex trafficking victim:
- Minimal luggage/clothing.
- Lack of access to travel documents and money.
- Victim seems disoriented and lost.
- Victim lacks physical and verbal autonomy.
- Lack of adequate language skills for foreign victims.
- Trafficker is seen with many young children.
- Trafficker insists on paying solely in cash.
- Victim and trafficker have minimal interaction and eye contact with others, especially with staff.
- No evidence of return ticket; may have tickets to multiple destinations.
- Victim has indications of physical and emotional abuse.
How Everyone Who Stays in Hotels Can Help
Download the TraffickCam app to your mobile devices and help law enforcement identify hotels where victims are being trafficked.
[Read This Next: PCMA Signs The Code at Convening Leaders 2019]