Meeting Professionals International

Meeting Professionals International Commits to Combat Child Sex Trafficking

Signing of The Code to take place via MPI live stream on Global Meetings Industry Day

DALLAS, April 3, 2019 -- Meeting Professionals International (MPI), the world's largest meeting and event industry association, today announced the organization's commitment to combat child sex trafficking through a partnership with ECPAT-USA. As part of a live stream on April 4, 2019, celebrating Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID), MPI will sign the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct (The Code) a travel and tourism industry-driven initiative that seeks to provide awareness, tools, and support to prevent the sexual exploitation of children.

A joint venture between the private sector and ECPAT-USA, The Code is a voluntary set of business principles travel and tour companies can implement to prevent the trafficking of children. As part of the commitment, ECPAT-USA will provide tools that will help MPI raise awareness of the issue and stop child sex trafficking. 

"Meeting and event professionals are in a unique position to raise awareness of and prevent child sex trafficking," said Michelle Guelbart, Director of Private Sector Engagement at ECPAT-USA. "We're excited to see a globally recognized organization like Meeting Professionals International take a leadership role on this issue. Through this partnership with MPI, we will be able to expand the fight to end exploitation to thousands of individuals in over a dozen countries around the world."

The signing of The Code on GMID will be led by CEO and President, Paul Van Deventer, VP of People and Performance, Diane Hawkins and COO, Darren Temple. In 2017, MPI committed to join the fight to stop human trafficking, with a focus on ending the sexual exploitation of children. Over the past 18 months, working closely with organizations such as ECPAT and Sisters of Charity, and by engaging the community through monthly articles in MPI's publications, providing training to volunteer leaders, and offering educational programming, MPI has made a concerted effort to raise awareness of this crime, while also instructing on specific actions to prevent it.

"As a leader in the meetings and events industry, MPI assumes great responsibility to raising awareness about the human sex trafficking epidemic and advocating with our partners to take action against it," said Paul Van Deventer, MPI president, and CEO. "The travel industry is a target for human traffickers and by educating the meetings and events industry about signs to look for, we hope to prevent potential abuse and keep children safe."

GMID brings together leaders from across the meetings and events industry to showcase the real impact that business meetings, conferences, conventions, incentive travel, trade shows, and exhibitions have on people, businesses and communities.

One Travel Professional’s Experience Is An Important Reminder Of Vulnerability Of Homeless Youth

By Michelle Guelbart and Emily Becker

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Dawn Rasmussen, an Oregon-based resume writer and career management coach, cited the training she received from Meeting Professionals International (MPI), an ECPAT-USA partner as the vehicle that gave her the confidence to intervene in a recent situation that could have turned into a trafficking scenario.

Dawn had been kayaking at an Oregon state park, in a rural area, and was returning to her car when she noticed a young woman walking around the nearly empty parking lot. She had a number of bags with her, and clearly, none of the cars in the lot belonged to her. The girl wandered close to the MPI member, who asked her if she needed anything. When the young woman responded she was waiting for someone, Dawn said that’s when alarm bells started going off.

Instead of continuing about her day, Dawn, enlisted the help of two other women who had arrived at the park to talk with the girl while she called the police. In a Facebook post, Dawn referred to the group as a “small covey of guardian angels.” On a phone call with ECPAT-USA she noted that the series of events—receiving training, seeing the girl, enlisting the support of equally concerned women—didn’t feel like a coincidence. Dawn told ECPAT-USA that she felt like “an instrument,” like she was put in the situation.

The women noticed inconsistencies in her story, an indicator cited in ECPAT-USA training. They learned that she had just run away from home, and while she said she was 22, she seemed much younger. Initially she said that she was waiting for her brother. Then she said she was waiting for a friend of her brother’s.

At this point, over an hour had passed and no one had come to pick up the young woman. The three women, who have stayed in touch since the incident, decided together that they would wait with the girl until the police arrived and hoped that the officers would be able to get the young woman the resources she needed.

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Runaway and homeless youth are a population that is especially vulnerable to traffickers in the U.S. Isolated and lacking basic needs such as food and shelter, homeless youth are prone to coercion tactics used by traffickers. A study in 2013 conducted by Covenant House, an organization that serves homeless youth, homeless teens in NYC who were survivors of sex trafficking said a lack of a safe place to sleep had been their number one concern when they had been drawn into commercial sexual exploitation.

Our corporate training programs help to teach members of the hotel and travel industry the signs of and how to best respond to instances of child sex trafficking. With these tools, individuals are better equipped with how to respond when, like Dawn, they see something that causes their “alarm bells” to go off and help protect other kids from exploitation.

To learn more about how your company can train associates to help end child sex trafficking click here, and to learn more about our youth program that helps empower students to become leaders and advocates in their community, click here.

To schedule a time to speak with ECPAT-USA or Dawn, contact Michelle Guelbart at michelle@ecpatusa.org.

ECPAT-USA’s Director of Private Sector Engagement, Michelle Guelbart, invited Dawn to tell her story at an ECPAT-USA session during Meeting Professionals International World Education Congress in Indianapolis on Monday, June 4 from 1:15 PM - 2:15 PM.

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ECPAT-USA and The Code Announce 2017 US Top Members

The Tourism Child Protection Code of Conduct (The Code) recently announced their 2017 Top Member companies. Eight companies, two based in the United States, are newly-recognized as Top Members for their “exceptional work to integrate child protection practices into their businesses.” In total, twenty Top Members are based in the United States and are guided through their membership and implementation with the support of Local Code Representative, ECPAT-USA.

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The Code is a set of six voluntary guidelines that travel and tourism companies implement to comprehensively and proactively combat the commercial sexual exploitation of children. In order for a company to be recognized as a Top Member, companies must implement all six of The Code criteria within their business operations and report publicly on TheCode.Org website.

“We are encouraged that our Top Members are committed to comprehensive policies and training that protect children,” said ECPAT-USA’s director of private sector engagement, Michelle Guelbart. “The travel industry continues to mobilize on this issue and we look forward to seeing more Code Members join these leaders in 2018.”

The 20 United States 2017 Top Members are:
Adventure Travel Trade Association (trade association)
Altruvistas (tour operator)
Caribe Royale Orlando (hotel)
Carlson (hotel brand)
CorpTrav Management (travel management)
Elevate Destinations*
EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services (ground transportation)
Envision Meetings & Incentives (meeting & events)
Hilton Worldwide (hotel brand)
Hospitality eResources (hospitality consulting)
Hyatt Hotels Corporation*
International Tour Management Institute (educational institute)
Maritz Travel (travel management)
Meaningful Trip (tour operator)
Meeting Professionals International – WA State Chapter (trade association)
Nix Conference & Meeting Management (meeting & events)
Platinum Travel & Events (meeting professionals)
Real Hospitality Group (hotel management)
Sabre (global distribution system)
Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (trade association)

* companies newly promoted to Top Member status

See all of the US Code Members and learn more about our work with companies to prevent child trafficking and exploitation.

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