by Karen Weiss

I was lucky enough to participate in ECPAT-USA’s first Advocacy Journey to Thailand, focused on learning about the issue of trafficking and the work being done to combat it. I thought a day-by-day synopsis of the trip might to helpful for people considering joining a future Advocacy Journey.

Overall, the trip can best be described as AMAZING, INCREDIBLE, and THRILLING!! It combines the excitement of visiting a fascinating country with a rare opportunity to broaden your understanding of the problem of human trafficking. Traveling with ECPAT-USA opens doors to an education that would not be available to the average traveller.

Our Group

We were a group of nine, including my 25-year-old daughter, a New York City writer, two employees of a corporate travel company, the Chairperson of the Board of ECPAT-USA, and three others who have a focus on stopping human trafficking or work in the field. I am an attorney and have volunteered my services to ECPAT-USA for several years. We were accompanied by ECPAT-USA’s Director of Development, Sarah Porter, and Altruvistas’ local guide/interpreter, Adisak Kaewrakmuk, who goes by the nickname, “Dee.” Despite the differences in age and backgrounds, this bunch of strangers gelled wonderfully as a group. And of course, we had the common interest in learning about and how to end human trafficking, and taking this advocacy back to our communities.

Getting There and 5 Nights in Bangkok

Bangkok’s airport is enormous! But out of the crowd appeared Sarah Porter, wearing her ECPAT-USA t-shirt. She was a sight for travel-weary eyes! We arrived the evening before the official start of the tour on the 7th. I’d recommend doing this as it allowed us to go to bed on Thai time and helped us overcome the jet lag caused by traveling for 20 hours to a location twelve hours ahead on the clock.

Altruvistas arranged transport for us to the Sofitel Hotel. Despite being travel weary, I was enthralled with the view from the taxi. I had never before been in Asia or to any country classified as “emerging” by the UN. I was struck by the juxtaposition of modern high-rise buildings and run-down low buildings. The narrowness of the streets once we left the highway was also remarkable. I could have reached out the window and grabbed a snack from a street vendor. The Sofitel (an Accor hotel and member of The Code) was a beautiful modern hotel and the staff could not have been more friendly and helpful. We checked in and crashed.
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Hyatt Signs the ECPAT Code, Reinforces Commitment to Protect Children

Hyatt Signs the ECPAT Code, Reinforces Commitment to Protect Children

Adapted from article in MeetingsNet by Michelle Guelbart, MSW:

This is an announcement we’ve been barely holding on the tips of our tongues for the past few months, and today is finally the day! We are so excited to let you know that in observance of Human Rights Day, December 10th, Hyatt Hotels Corp. is reinforcing its commitment to protect children by partnering with my organization, ECPAT-USA and joining The Code.

This is huge news for us. We’ve been lucky enough to meet with so many Hyatt associates who are working hard on human rights issues and anti-trafficking programs and for them to join The Code reaffirms those efforts. We also hope to be able to work together to strengthen their programs and continue to build awareness in the anti-trafficking space.

As you may know, The Code is a set of six guidelines travel companies implement that helps them put in place policies and programs to comprehensively protect children from sexual exploitation and trafficking. I know that sounds like a big undertaking but Hyatt has been taking big steps for years! It already has a policy and a training program, so we’re happy to be able to highlight that for you.
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On #GivingTuesday, Consider ECPAT-USA

I don’t know about you, but after the shopping hype of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the idea of #GivingTuesday really feels good. Now in it’s fourth year, #GivingTuesday organizers aim to make the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving the kickoff of the charitable-giving season, balancing the excesses of the holidays by encouraging us to give back to those who need it most.

As meeting professionals, I hope you’ll consider child sex trafficking victims among those who receive your donations this year. The crimes are often perpetrated in the hotels where you do business, and victims are often overlooked and even criminalized.

Next Tuesday, donate to ECPAT-USA to help create a world where no child is bought, sold, or used for sex—a world where childhood can flourish. Your donation could teach an at-risk youth to say no when traffickers target them. It could train a hotel front-desk associate to report their suspicions when they see a child who may be a victim, or when a guest offers money for information about the underage commercial sex industry. It can help create opportunities for freedom.

PayPal will be waving all fees for the month of December so your gift will go further! Please consider donating and sharing this post. Donate here.

temp-post-image#givingtuesday ECPAT-USA
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You’re Doing It Wrong: the Definition of Child Sex Trafficking

You’re Doing It Wrong: the Definition of Child Sex Trafficking

While we like to think that it doesn’t happen in the U.S., child sex trafficking happens every day in our country, states, and, sometimes, even in the city where we live. However, what we think of as child sex trafficking and what child sex trafficking looks like today can be quite different. Popular movies and even some PSAs have portrayed child sex trafficking usually as a stranger luring an unsuspecting child off the street into an unmarked van being taken into another state or even overseas. In fact, crossing a border or movement in general is not even necessary for child sex trafficking to occur.

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Give an Event Gift That Can Help to Save a Child

ECPAT USA’s mission to end the sexual exploitation of children moves forward one donation at a time. This holiday season you and your organization can help fund our work by giving ECPAT Event Gifts that Give Back to your clients, colleagues, and family.
ECPAT’s luggage tags include an educational insert that explains the signs of human trafficking.

ECPAT gifts are all made in fair trade conditions in the Regina Center in Thailand. They benefit the women who made them and contribute to our mission to create a world where no child is bought, sold, or used for sex.

ECPAT-USA luggage tags were launched as a way to raise awareness of the issue among travelers. The distinctive design is a great conversation starter about the cause. Each tag also includes an insert that explains the signs of human trafficking in travel as well as the national human trafficking hotline to make a report. ECPAT luggage tags are $12 each and $60 for a set of five.

We also have ECPAT key chains, which, we like to say, are unlocking freedom for children. Each keychain is hand sewn with a unique design on the inside. Show your support for ECPAT’s mission in an easy and trendy way. ECPAT Key Chains are $5 each and $25 for a set of 5.

To purchase these or other products or to learn how leading meeting companies are making a commitment to ECPAT USA’s Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct, visit http://www.http://www.ecpatusa.org.


Cornell Study Focuses on Ending Human Trafficking

Cornell Study Focuses on Ending Human Trafficking

Image removed by sender. red barIthaca, NY, October 15, 2015 – Throughout the world, human traffickers use hotels and other hospitality locations to kidnap and exploit their victims, many of whom are children. A new report from the Center for Hospitality Research (CHR) at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration calls on the industry to fight back against trafficking of children. In the report, “Adopting the Code: Human Trafficking and the Hospitality Industry,” Michele Sarkisian outlines the dimensions of the problem and gives specific strategies for ending this practice. Sarkisian is president of P3 Advisors, and a CHR research fellow. The report is available from CHR at no charge.

“The hospitality industry can take an important stand against trafficking by adopting The Code, which commits a firm to six specific steps intended to stop traffickers,” said Sarkisian. “The key is to train employees to observe and report the signs of trafficking, particularly focusing on the exploitation of children. The more hotel and hospitality firms that support The Code, the more traffickers will be identified and stopped.”

The Code’s six steps are: (1) Establish a policy and procedures against sexual exploitation of children; (2) Train employees in children’s rights, the prevention of sexual exploitation, and how to report suspected cases; (3) Include a clause in contracts throughout the value chain stating a common repudiation and zero tolerance policy of sexual exploitation of children; (4) Provide information to travelers on children’s rights, the prevention of sexual exploitation of children, and how to report suspected cases; (5) Support, collaborate, and engage stakeholders in the prevention of sexual exploitation of children; and (6) Report annually on your implementation of The Code.

Such large hospitality firms as Delta Airlines, Hilton Worldwide, Carlson–Rezidor, Wyndham Worldwide, and Maritz Travel Company have signed The Code, and Sarkisian notes that an increasing number of groups and single travelers now seek out hotels that have anti-trafficking policies.

Image removed by sender. red barAbout the Center for Hospitality Research
The purpose of the Center for Hospitality Research is to enable and conduct research of significance to the global hospitality and related service industries. The CHR also works to improve the connections between academe and industry, continuing the School of Hotel Administration’s long-standing tradition of service to the hospitality industry. Founded in 1992, CHR remains the industry’s foremost creator and distributor of timely research, all of which is posted at no charge for all to use. In addition to its industry advisory board, the CHR convenes several industry roundtables each year for the purpose of identifying new issues affecting the hospitality industry.

Center Members: Accenture, Access Point Financial, Cvent, Inc., Davis & Gilbert LLP, Deloitte & Touche USA LLP, Denihan Hospitality Group, Duetto, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Fox Rothschild LLP, Hilton Worldwide, Host Hotels & Resorts, Inc., Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Infosys Limited, Intel Corporation, InterContinental Hotels Group, Jumeirah Group, Marriott International, Inc., priceline.com, PwC, The Rainmaker Group, RateGain, ReviewPro, Sabre Hospitality Solutions, SAS, STR, Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, Talent Plus, Inc., Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., TripAdvisor, Wipro EcoEnergy, and Wyndham Hotel Group

ECPAT-USA Releases First-Ever Guide to States to Stop Child Sex Trafficking Victims From Falling Through Cracks

ECPAT-USA Releases First-Ever Guide to States to Stop Child Sex Trafficking Victims From Falling Through Cracks

New Steps to Safety Report Guides States in Best Practices for Enacting Safe Harbor

Laws for Child Sex Trafficking Victims

New York, NY – September 30, 2015 – ECPAT-USA, the USA division of a global nonprofit working to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children, is today releasing a first-of-its- kind report called Steps to Safety to protect thousands of children who become victims of sex trafficking each year in the United States. Addressing the disconnect between national and state laws, ECPAT-USA developed this comprehensive report to arm states with guidelines to develop their own Safe Harbor law to move sex trafficking victims out of jails and into care. “The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 was a great start yet unfortunately doesn’t protect many victims, as the majority of cases are handled at the state level,” says Carol Smolenski, Executive Director of ECPAT-USA. “Child sex trafficking victims are falling through the cracks in every state and often end up in jail, and this report is an important step in turning Steps to Safety provides a detailed checklist for states to enact or improve its Safe Harbor law.

Recommendations for a successful Safe Harbor law at the state level include:

  • Classify victims as abused children and therefore immune from prosecution. Sadly, 1,000 children under the age of 18 were arrested in 2011 for prostitution, according to the Department of Justice.
  • Ensure the state has services in place to help victims with financial compensation, housing, education and more.
  • Ensure local law enforcement and teachers are able to help spot victims and provide necessary assistance.
  • Permit victims to obtain a court order vacating and expunging criminal convictions that were entered while they were being trafficked.

“The ECPAT-USA report on Safe Harbor laws will help states increase protections effectively for children, who have been commercially sexually exploited. If these laws had been in place when I had been trafficked as a young teen, I might have had an easier time overcoming such victimization,” said Holly Austin Smith, sex trafficking victim and author of Walking Prey: How America’s Youth are Vulnerable to Sex Slavery. The report covers 19 states and the District of Columbia with recommendations for Safe Harbor laws. Currently, laws vary from state to state – some with minimalistic laws like Connecticut and Tennessee, while others have highly detailed laws like Michigan, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Delaware. This report will help ensure each state has a detailed and comprehensive law in place, and ECPAT-USA will offer support and guidance to lawmakers to help make this a reality.

“Research, academic studies and on-the-ground experience all show that Safe Harbor laws are the most effective way to bring exploited children out of the shadows and make sure traffickers are brought to justice,” says Congressman Erik Paulsen (R-MN). “The focus should now be on educating policymakers, prosecutors, and law enforcement on the need for safe harbor provisions to combat sex trafficking in their communities and states. Steps to Safety will be a useful tool for advocates and legislators to use as they seek the best methods to protect victims

To learn more and view the Steps to Safety report, please visit www.http://www.ecpatusa.org/safeharbor.

  • Carol Smolenski, Executive Director of ECPAT-USA (New York)
  • Faiza Mathon-Mathieu, Director of Public Policy and Government Relations, ECPAT- USA (Washington D.C.)
  • Congressman Erik Paulsen (R-MN)

ECPAT is an international network comprised of over 80 organizations, represented in 75 countries. ECPAT-USA is recognized as one of the primary organizations focused on ending the commercial sexual exploitation of children and is the American affiliate of the international ECPAT network. ECPAT-USA works every day to ensure that no child is bought, sold or used for sex. ECPAT-USA undertakes policy and legislative advocacy, corporate social responsibility, research, training, educational initiatives, along with raising awareness that children are commercially sexually exploited here in the US. http://www.http://www.ecpatusa.org/

For more information, please contact:

Carol Smolenski, Executive Director of ECPAT-USA
718-935-9192, csmolenski@http://www.ecpatusa.org

Faiza Mathon-Mathieu, Director of Public Policy and Government Relations, ECPAT-USA
786-512-3919, fmathonmathieu@http://www.ecpatusa.org

Jeannie Evanchan, PR for ECPAT-USA
317-385-5752, jeannie@praytellstrategy.com

GBTA Partners with ECPAT to Fight Child Exploitation in Travel

GBTA Partners with ECPAT to Fight Child Exploitation in Travel

Orlando, FL – July 27, 2015 – Today at GBTA Convention 2015, the GBTA Foundation announced it is joining the fight to stop child exploitation by working with ECPAT, the leading anti-trafficking policy organization fighting sex tourism.

“The GBTA Foundation and ECPAT stand shoulder-to-shoulder against the trafficking and exploitation of children,” said Daphne Bryant, GBTA Foundation executive director. “In making this commitment, the GBTA Foundation will work with ECPAT to educate the travel industry about the warning signs of sex tourism and child exploitation. Working together, our industry can make a significant impact in ending child exploitation.”

“I welcome GBTA’s commitment to fully support ECPAT’s mission to help children all over the world,” said Michelle Guelbart, Director of Private Sector Engagement for ECPAT. “With the business travel industry’s support, we can make a difference.”

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, approximately 100,000 children have been sexually abused and exploited in the United States in the past year, and millions more are exploited around the world. Travel infrastructure is sometimes used in trafficking and exploitation, through commercial airlines and buses used to transport children, online classifieds used to lure travelers, and hotel rooms which can be the site of abuse.

GBTA is working to mobilize the travel industry against child exploitation in travel. GBTA is encouraging the business travel industry to adopt and implement ECPAT’s Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct, the only voluntary, industry-driven set of guidelines that focuses on the elimination of child exploitation and trafficking.

Know the Signs
GBTA is calling on its members to become more aware of the issues and put in place best practices to know the signs and continue to build their knowledge about the issue using the GBTA toolkit available at www.GBTA.org/ECPAT.

CONTACT: Colleen Gallagher, +1 703-236-1133, cgallagher@gbta.org

About the GBTA Foundation
The GBTA Foundation is the education and research foundation of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), the world’s premier business travel and meetings trade organization headquartered in the Washington, D.C. area with operations on six continents. Collectively, GBTA’s 7,000-plus members manage more than $345 billion of global business travel and meetings expenditures annually. GBTA provides its growing network of more than 28,000 travel professionals and 125,000 active contacts with world-class education, events, research, advocacy and media. The Foundation was established in 1997 to support GBTA’s members and the industry as a whole. As the leading education and research foundation in the business travel industry, the GBTA Foundation seeks to fund initiatives to advance the business travel profession. The GBTA Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. For more information, see www.gbta.org and www.gbta.org/foundation.

About the Global Business Travel Association
The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) is the world’s premier business travel and meetings organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. area with operations on six continents. GBTA’s 7,000-plus members manage more than $345 billion of global business travel and meetings expenditures annually. GBTA and the GBTA Foundation deliver world-class education, events, research, advocacy and media to a growing global network of more than 28,000 travel professionals and 125,000 active contacts. To learn how business travel drives business growth, visit gbta.org


EmpireCLS Implements Companywide Anti-Human Trafficking and Slavery Policy

Secaucus, NJ — (SBWIRE) — 07/06/2015 — As part of the ongoing partnership with ECPAT-USA in helping to end child sex trafficking, EmpireCLS has implemented its first companywide policy against human trafficking and slavery. The policy sets official anti-trafficking standards and guidelines by which the company will manages day-to-day operations and training requirements.

Worldwide, 1.8 million children are exploited by the sex trafficking industry, with 300,000 currently at risk in the US alone. Although this horrific industry is organized by intentionally exploitative parties, many businesses in the tourism and transportation industries play an unwitting role in the harboring and transportation of sexually exploited children.

An organization aiming to stop child sex tourism at its source, ECPAT-USA has been advocating for anti-trafficking legislation, promoting corporate responsibility and educating first responders, citizens and youth on the signs of human trafficking and how to take action against it for the past two decades. ECPAT-USA is supported by a global network of advocates, of which EmpireCLS joined in July 2014.

The new zero-tolerance policy officially outlines efforts EmpireCLS has enacted to prevent any organizational involvement in the use slave labor, including the employment of or doing business with any employee, customer, business partner, vendor or contractor associated with human trafficking. The same zero-tolerance verbiage has been added to all business contracts.

“Establishing guidelines by which EmpireCLS does business with clients and vendors not only minimizes our risk of exposure to the unfortunate matter of human trafficking, but also showcases our commitment to corporate social responsibility and support of our friends at ECPAT-USA,” said chairman and CEO David Seelinger.

EmpireCLS, a provider of worldwide chauffeur car services, took the initiative on corporate social responsibility as the first ground transportation and chauffeur services company to sign Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct, an industry-driven initiative with the mission to provide awareness, tools and support to the tourism industry to prevent the sexual exploitation of children. As an upholder of the Code, EmpireCLS already trains its chauffeurs and employees on how to recognize and report human trafficking.

To learn more about how EmpireCLS is at the forefront of corporate responsibility, visit their website and check their News page for frequent updates.

About EmpireCLS
For over three decades, EmpireCLS has led the livery transportation industry in trends and entrepreneurial vision. Captained by chairman and CEO David Seelinger, EmpireCLS has grown from a single-car company to a worldwide, luxury, chauffeured transportation provider, equipped with a fleet of late-model, luxury vehicles and driven by only the most dedicated and professional chauffeurs.

Available in over 700 cities worldwide, EmpireCLS provides unparalleled, five-star service to all of its guests, and also offers premium services like security coverage and airport concierge. Whether arranging transportation to their hotel or a major awards ceremony, EmpireCLS’s guests can expect the best-in-class service that has earned the company its worldwide reputation for excellence.

For more information on EmpireCLS, visit http://www.empirecls.com.

For more information on this press release visit: http://www.sbwire.com/press-releases/release-608107.htm

Successful Meetings Highlights “#DoesYour HotelKnow?”

New PSA Asks: ‘Does Your Hotel Know’ About Child Sex Trafficking?

by Matt Alderton and Leo Jakobson | July 02, 2015

At least 100,000 children are sexually exploited for commercial gain in the United States every year, and another 300,000 are at risk, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Because many of these children are victimized by pimps who conduct business in hotel rooms — trafficked victims are bought and sold in hotel rooms and exploited in prostitution — the anti-trafficking group ECPAT-USA yesterday launched a new public awareness campaign designed to educate hotels and travelers about sex trafficking.

The “#DoesYourHotelKnow?” campaign starts with the knowledge that, when asked, service providers and law enforcement agencies report that nearly every sex trafficking victim they’ve encountered has at some point been exploited in hotels. Its centerpiece is a 1-minute, 24-second public service announcement (PSA) narrated by a 13-year-old sex trafficking victim who describes the experience of being spotted by a hotel guest who could help her — but doesn’t.

“We looked at each other,” the girl says. “I feel like he knew something was wrong or off or whatever, but he looked away. They always look away. It’s weird, because there must be something they can do.”

The video ends with the message, “Does your hotel know the signs of sex trafficking?” and directs viewers to visit ECPAT-USA’s website, where the organization has published a voluntary code of conduct for travel and tourism businesses. Those who adopt the code promise to adopt a zero-tolerance policy against sex trafficking, to provide training that will help their employees recognize and report sex trafficking when they witness it, and to provide information to travelers to make them aware of the issue and how they can help.

“It’s a despicable crime and all of us, as human beings, need to be aware of it and help bring it to an end,” said David Peckinpaugh, president of Maritz Travel Company and Experient, which became an ECPAT-USA Code signatory three years ago.

“One of our travel partners, Sabre, invited us to an event where they were announcing their signature of the ECPAT Code. That’s how we were introduced to the issue,” recalled Peckinpaugh. “We really felt this was something we needed to get engaged in and to help bring awareness to the issue. Because like so many other companies and individuals and organizations, we had very low knowledge about this really tragic and despicable crime. We started researching the problem, and the first instance we came up with showed a girl being trafficked and you could see the St. Louis Arch [where Maritz Travel is headquartered] in the background of the picture. So it really hit home.”

As it continued researching the issue, Maritz realized that sex trafficking is as much a domestic problem as it is an international one. “It’s not just happening overseas, it’s happening in every one of our communities, in everyone’s backyard,” Peckinpaugh continued. “We embarked on that journey and not long after signed on with the Code, and we’ve been speaking and building awareness ever since.”

For planners who wish to join the ECPAT-USA cause, Peckinpaugh has two messages. “No. 1, awareness. We have a number of big industry and client events throughout the year. At every one of those events, we take at least 10-15 minutes to make sure we show a video and at least talk about the issue and how people can get involved,” he concluded. “No. 2 is, then really make a decision, organization by organization, about what your level of commitment is. We’ve created an internal steering committee made up of employees across our company. We have developed language for both contracts with our suppliers as well as requests for proposals (RFPs) that bring this issue to light in all of our communications with our supplier community. Our efforts continue to grow. A number of us are out speaking and presenting to industry organizations to build awareness and let them know resources are available.”

For more information, to watch the PSA, or to sign the ECPAT-USA Code of Conduct, visit www.http://www.ecpatusa.org/code.

This article was originally posted in Successful Meetings here.