Meeting planners who want to do something to combat human trafficking should start asking questions at the client and RFP levels, says Ellen Boddington, CMP, CMM, president of Stellar Conferences & Event Management, and Andrea Boulden, manager of events, TD Wealth.
“You can ask if the property has a human trafficking awareness campaign, and if they do, which one,” says Boulden. ” You can also ask if the property is providing training to its staff and what form that training takes.”
Boddington agrees, adding that clients should also be part of the conversation. “Ask your clients if they are aware of human trafficking in hotels, and if they would like to learn more about human trafficking awareness campaigns and organizations such as ECPAT [a global organization combating child prostitution],” she says.
The questions, they emphasized, are not intended to place blame, but rather to start a constructive, collaborative conversation to play a role in combating combat a crime, the victims of which include children.
Boulden and Boddington were two of the speakers at an education session hosted by Meeting Professionals Against Human Trafficking (MPAHT), which was held January 26, 2018 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Toronto. It was the second education session put on by MPAHT, a group of planners and suppliers spearheaded by Sandy Biback, CMP Emeritus, CMM, who banded together in 2017 to increase industry awareness of human trafficking.
The early-morning event, which drew 90 planners and suppliers (50/50 split), started with a presentation by Nunzio Tramontozzi, Detective Sergeant, Sex Crimes, from the Human Trafficking Enforcement Team (HTET) of the Toronto Police Service.
Tramontozzi, a 29-year veteran of the Sex Crimes unit, explained that Toronto is the hub for human trafficking in Canada, and since the HTET unit was formed in March 2014, it has investigated 875 occurrences of human trafficking, made 260 arrests, laid 1,760 charges, and taken part in 204 victim interventions.
“Human trafficking isn’t something that happens in other countries,” he said. “Ninety percent of the women we deal with are born and raised in Canada. Ninety-eight percent of human trafficking cases have been identified as domestic human trafficking cases for the purpose of sexual exploitation.”
He explained that “recruitment” for human trafficking is done at group homes, parties, social events, schools, and adult entertainment establishments as well as online via social media. Traffickers target girls, boys and young adults at all strata of society, singling out those individuals with low self-esteem, mental health issues and unstable family situations. “Two days is all it takes to groom a girl and get her into the human trafficking sex industry,” he said, adding that the youngest victim he has dealt with was recruited when she was 12, and the average age of recruitment is 14.
He also explained that the majority of human trafficking is happening in hotels, and as a result “education in hotels must extend beyond security to the front desk and housekeeping.”
The good news is that education in hotels has increased and does extend beyond security. Terry Mundell, president and CEO of the Greater Toronto Hotel Association, told attendees that the association has worked with Tramantozzi and HTET and has training material, developed in collaboration with Toronto Police, available on its website.
The session ended with an update by Biback on what’s next for MPAHT.
The organization, which is being hailed as an innovative example of how members of the industry can work together to combat human trafficking, is being profiled in Meetings Today, a leading U.S. publication. Its members are also sharing their expertise and information with the next generation of planners by speaking at schools.
Biback also announced that MPAHT’s next event is a reception and special screening of the documentary “Sex Slaves,” which will be held at The Globe and Mail Centre on Tuesday, March 6, 2018.
At the 2017 edition of PCMA Canada East’s Canadian Innovation Conference (CIC), Sandy Biback spoke on human trafficking and what planners can do about it. Her presentation was filmed by Freeman Audio Visual Canada at the conference and edited by AV-Canada into a video to be shared with the industry.