No Vacancy: How the Meetings and Events Industry Can Help Stop Child Sex Trafficking

Child sex trafficking is a crime that happens across the United States, often in hotel rooms. Something that you might consider is that other businesses, parallel to the hospitality industry, can help protect children—the meeting and events industry is one of them because the meetings industry works with hotels and with companies that book hotels for their employees.

In September, ECPAT-USA released a report, No Vacancy for Child Sex Traffickers, which shows the extent and impact of our training efforts in hotels. Now we are sharing a series of blogs that will teach you about the issue, highlight stakeholders who can help fight child sex trafficking, and give you ideas from the report for how to get involved. This blog provides information for meeting planning professionals about how they can take action on this issue. The information extends to corporate travel managers (in-house professionals who manage travel for private companies) and travel management companies (entire companies that focus on booking travel for clients).

Meeting planning professionals are uniquely situated between hotels and companies that book travel for their employees. Both of these groups can play a role in ending child sex trafficking, and meetings professionals have the power to persuade them to do so.

 

What the Meetings Industry Can Do

Professionals in the meetings industry can help persuade both travel suppliers (hotels, airlines, etc.) and corporate travel managers to implement policies and programs to protect children. Hotels must have policies in place that state a zero-tolerance of sex trafficking and train their associates. Travel managers must book hotels that have these standards in place.

Let’s face it, money talks. Meeting planning professionals are in an ideal position to discuss child-protection policies with travel suppliers, such as hotels, because sheer size of contracts with hotels. Over time, the long standing relationships with suppliers also means that they trust you. As meeting professionals you can use this influence to share information about training.

At the panel that launched No Vacancy for Child Sex Traffickers, survivor and advocate Katrina Owens pointed out that numbers matter when it comes to getting companies and those in power to act on child sex trafficking. The more people that speak out against a harmful practice or advocate for a positive practice, the more likely results are. The meetings industry has great power to effect change on child sex trafficking because, while meetings companies often only have a few employees, you represent many clients, and therefore can send a powerful message to the hospitality industry.

Meeting planning professionals are also well positioned to speak to corporate travel executives about this issue because corporate travel executives look to you to provide information about travel industry trends and risk areas.

One concrete way meeting planning professionals must combat child sex trafficking is by integrating requirements about anti-trafficking policies and training into your RFPs.

By making these requirements part of standard practice, meetings professionals send the message that child sex trafficking is unacceptable and travel companies can act to combat it.  Language in RFPs can educate hotels who may not know about the issue, and persuade those who may be reluctant to institute policies and training to protect children. You can also educate corporate travel managers by discussing the issue when working on RFPs for their travel, and explaining why it is important to include child-safe language in RFPs and contracts with suppliers.

Our partner, Nix Conference & Meeting Management, includes questions about trafficking policies in all of their RFPs. They ask three questions of all potential clients: “Does your property have a policy regarding commercial sexual exploitation of children or child sex trafficking? Are you aware of the ECPAT-USA Code of Conduct? If no, would you be willing to receive additional information from ECPAT-USA regarding The Code of Conduct?” These questions start a conversation about trafficking and what properties can do to protect children.

In addition to integrating language about anti-trafficking training into RFPs, meeting planning professionals can also choose to work with hotels that already have training in place. By prioritizing these hotels, and making this policy known to the hotel industry, meeting planning professionals can send a message that training associates about human trafficking is not only the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense.