Human trafficking is a global scourge that often uses the hospitality, travel, meetings and events industries as platforms to facilitate its heart-wrenching criminal trade via hotels and airlines.

To combat the crime, which often manifests in the form of child sex trafficking and involuntary prostitution at hotels during events, major travel-related industry associations have banded together with ECPAT-USA to launch the 20By20 initiative to train 20,000 business events professionals to fight human trafficking by July 2020. ECPAT-USA is a U.S. policy organization that seeks to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

The global effort was launched July 30, 2019, in conjunction with the United Nations’ World Day Against Human Trafficking in Persons. According to ECPAT-USA, the founding class of Business Events Champions includes CorpTrav, CWT, IAEE, IMEX Group and PCMA. Meetings industry associations, such as MPI, have also singled out human trafficking as a top priority.

Michelle Guelbart, Director of Private Sector Engagement, ECPAT-USA“We are at a critical juncture in ECPAT-USA’s goal to end child sex trafficking and exploitation,” said Michelle Guelbart, director of Private Sector Engagement for ECPAT-USA and a frequent meetings industry speaker on the effort to eradicate child sex trafficking.

“To have the business events industry become a unified part of the fight against this international scourge by championing education is essential to achieving this vision,” she added.

Meetings Today has signed on as an Advocate in the 20By20 initiative, with a commitment to continue covering the issue of human trafficking via its various content channels.

The Global Scourge of Child Sex Trafficking

The global scope and statistics related to human trafficking are sobering.

ECPAT-USA defines human trafficking as the exercise of coercive control over persons for the purpose of exploitation. When the victim is under 18, they are a victim of child trafficking.

Following are statistics and observations related to human trafficking provided by ECPAT-USA:

  • According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), over 40 million people are living in slavery worldwide.
  • 1 in 4 victims of modern slavery are children, according to the ILO.
  • The ILO reports that 4.8 million victims of modern slavery are sexually exploited.
  • An ILO report found that modern slavery generates about $150 billion per year globally.
  • Human trafficking has been reported in all 50 U.S. states, in cities, suburbs and rural areas.
  • While stolen goods, drugs or guns can be sold once, a human being can be sold over and over again.

ECPAT-USA's Tools and Tips to Fight Human Trafficking

ECPAT-USA offers a 25-minute online Preventing & Responding To Human Trafficking And The Commercial Sexual Exploitation Of Children training program for business event and travel professionals, with versions available in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French. The cost of the training is $30, with discounts available for bulk purchases. A license for using the training for a team within an organization can be obtained by contacting info@ecpatusa.org.

Many business events and travel- and tourism-related organizations have signed on to The Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct (aka The Code). The Code is a voluntary set of business principles companies can implement to prevent the sexual exploitation and trafficking of children, providing awareness, tools and support to the hospitality industry.

A joint venture between the tourism private sector and ECPAT signatories promise to implement the following practices:

  • Establish a policy and procedures against sexual exploitation of children.
  • Train employees in children's rights, the prevention of sexual exploitation and how to report suspected cases.
  • Include a clause in contracts throughout the value chain stating a common repudiation and zero tolerance policy of sexual exploitation of children.
  • Provide information to travelers on children's rights, the prevention of sexual exploitation of children and how to report suspected cases.
  • Support, collaborate and engage stakeholders in the prevention of sexual exploitation of children.
  • Report annually on their implementation of Code-related activities.

Educational Resources on Ending Human Trafficking

Meetings Today has published numerous articles, videos and podcasts about how to recognize and combat human trafficking. Recent highlights include the following:

Spot the Warning Signs That May Signal Human Trafficking

A recent Meetings in a Minute video featuring Michelle Furgiuele, production manager of victims’ support organization Timea's Cause and taped at MPI WEC 2019, included the following warning signs that may signal human trafficking in hotels:

  • Guests being very quiet.
  • Guests avoiding eye contact.
  • If someone young is with someone much older than them and not referring to them as a parent or family member.
  • If someone is checking into a hotel with very little clothing on or with very few pieces of luggage, or luggage transported in bags.
  • Doors to hotel rooms frequently opening and shutting.
  • Activity to a hotel room throughout the night.
  • Frequent guest room noise complaints.
  • Numerous people in the same hotel room.
  • Underage individuals checking in by themselves.

You can watch the original Meetings in a Minute video embedded below.

“It is so important to report everything when you suspect that someone may be a victim,” Furgiuele said. “Every report helps to make a paper trail and to get help to these victims.”

To see a full list of organizations participating in the 20By20 initiative or find out more information about becoming an advocate, visit www.ecpatusa.org/20by20.

ECPAT-USA Advocate Logo, Credit: ECPAT-USA