Human Trafficking and SITE
Now is the time for the meetings industry to move from awareness to action in the global fight against human trafficking. Says SITE, the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence. At the meeting last month held a joint webinar on the topic with ECPAT-USA, an organization dedicated to stopping the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
Code involves more than just the signature. Companies agree to:
1. Establish a policy and procedures against exploitation of children.
2. Train employees about the issue and what to look for.
3. Include a clause in vendorstating a zero tolerance policy for sexual exploitation of children.
4. Provide information to travelers.
5. Collaborate and engage with stakeholders.
6. Report annually on implementation of the code.
The Code realize benefits to their organizations, such as recognition as a responsible brand, the ability to connect with other travel and tourism leaders who have signed The Code. Mitigation of potential risks, and a competitive advantage. (ECPAT stands for End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography, and Trafficking of children for sexual purposes.)
The Travel Industry Is the Front Line
SITE signed The Code at IMEX Frankfurt in 2015. Then dedicated itself to educating the meeting and incentive community about the issue. SITE is challenging its chapters worldwide to take action. Said Rhonda Brewer, immediate past president of SITE and vice president of sales for Maritz Travel (which signed The Code in 2013).
Trafficking of children is a $15 billion industry. Affects 150 million girls and 73 million boys under the age of 18 worldwide. “All countries have it happening,” Brewer pointed out. Hotels, because they can be an “anonymous space,” are on the front lines. It’s not budget airport hotels, it’s well-known brands used by meetings every day.
For example: In hotels, traffickers will travel with little or no luggage and pay in cash one day at a time. Victims may be dressed inappropriately for their age or the weather and they will be verbally or physically led by the trafficker.
At airports, traffickers will be carrying all the identification and money for the group they’re with; in flight, they will speak for the victim and may not allow the victim to walk around alone.
How SITE Will Help
Daryl Keywood, CIS, a board member of SITE and the CEO of Walthers, explained on the webinar that SITE has put together a “ Activities and Chapter Resource Guide” with ideas for taking action.
Essentially, SITE has partnered with ECPAT-USA to establish the SITE-ECPAT Fund, where donations will be collected “to create a world where no child is bought, used, or sold for sex.” SITE members and chapters may allocate any of their activities or fundraising to ECPAT-USA and all donations will be added to the fund. (To donate directly, go to the ECPAT website and write “SITE” in the Affiliation section.)
Chapters also can find a local or regional ECPAT or affiliate office or service provider (all vetted) by searching the online database. These offices can provide speakers for chapter meetings and source recipient provider organizations for donations such as care packages of personal care items that chapters might put together as a CSR activity.
Take the Challenge
Organization-wide, Keywood said, the SITE Challenge involves a chapter committing to contribute $500 per year for five years to ECPAT-USA and then challenging another chapter to do the same. The first to do this was the SITE Texas Chapter, which challenge SITE Southeast. And SITE SoCal is part of the challenge as well.
On a personal level, Keywood is an ECPAT Athlete, wearing an ECPAT jersey in cycling events such as the TD Five Boro Bike Tour, just held this week in New York City.
“Over 80 percent of arrests happen in airports and hotels,” Guelbart explained on the webinar. “Very few victims are identified, and even fewer are helped.” SITE’s goal is to change that.
Find more about ECPAT’s work, including its annual advocacy journeys, at the organization’s website. Here are a few ways to report suspicious activity:
• The Virtual Global Task Force (for online activity)
• The Cybertip Line is maintained by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a U.S. organization, but accepts reports globally: (800) 843-5678
• The USA National Human Trafficking hotline: (888) 373-7888