to have that
diversity and local
experiences,” said Susie
Townsend, senior vice president
of visitor experience for Visit Indy. “We
truly embraced MPI’s ‘Stop planning
meetings and start designing experi-
ences’ mission, starting at the airport
with an MPI WEC welcome lounge for
arriving attendees, where they could
have an Indiana-branded experience,
pick up their badges, get a drink and
have a meet
were just as
plenty of local
designed to have a festival feel on a
giant lawn at White River State Park,
with local entertainment, local food
that has been farmed, raised or grown
in Indiana and unique experiences
such as making bracelets and flower
arrangements, and things like pogo
stunt athletes,” Townsend said.
Other locally inspired event high-
lights included a food truck luncheon
on Georgia Street right outside the
with a Tom
band and food
trucks offering local
food, beer and wine;
the MPI President’s Dinner
honoring Roger Dow in the city’s
opulent and historic Indiana Roof Ball-
room; and a tailgate-style luncheon on
the field of Lucas Oil Sta-
dium, where attendees
could participate in field
goal kicks, football passes
and soccer goal kicks.
Visit Indy saved a true
bucket list experience
for last. MPI WEC 2018’s
closing celebration put
attendees in the fast lane
via police escort to India-
napolis Motor Speedway,
home of the famous Indy
500 race, for ride-alongs
at 120-plus mph around
the track (often coming
within a foot of the
wall) and opportunities to
“kiss the brick” and snap
pictures with the Indy
500 trophy, the championship wreath
and, of course, the celebratory “bottle
Nothing like living like a local in Indy.
MPI’s WEC 2019 will take place in
Toronto June 15-18. m
OPENING NIGHT CELEBRATION,
WHITE RIVER STATE PARK
MPI’s WEC Enlists Planners
to Combat Human Trafficking
By Marlene Goldman
One of the hot topics at MPI’s WEC 2018 in Indianapolis was sex trafficking as it relates to the travel industry. Michelle Guelbart, director of private sector engagement for ECPAT-USA, detailed some of the signs and ways to help during her presentation
“ECPAT: The Meeting and Event Industry’s Role in Combatting Sex Trafficking,”
which took place on Monday, June 4, 2018. ECPAT-USA is a nonprofit organization that exists to create a world where no child is bought, sold or used for sex.
In her role at ECPAT, Guelbart advises companies on CSR efforts to protect
children from trafficking and provides support and recommendations with training and workshops to ECPAT-USA partners including Carlson Companies, Delta
Air Lines, Wyndham Worldwide, Sabre and Hilton Worldwide.
She also presents her work and recommendations to local, international and
federal government agencies as well as industry professionals and wrote the
content for the American Hotel and Lodging Association Educational Institute’s
e-learning module to combat child sex trafficking in the U.S.
Guelbart’s presentation was meant to help attendees understand the scope of
the issue; recognize the signs of human trafficking; know how to report suspected
trafficking and engage suppliers, travelers and corporates to amplify awareness.
“When I first started working on the issue, I only heard about it when there
was violence,” she said.
But the issue and instances are more complex.
In the U.S. there is a law that any child sold in the sex trade is considered a
“There is no such thing as child prostitution,” Guelbart said.
She also noted victims are often boys.
Due to a law passed in 1991, children are not arrested but instead are offered
services. Adult victims however need to make a case to prove there was force,
fraud or coercion.
According to Guelbart, with the growth of technology, traffickers are running
their business on the streets and on the Internet. Traffickers, buyers and victims
believe the travel industry is anonymous and low risk.
She believes the meeting and event industry is uniquely situated to be the
eyes and ears of identifying human trafficking and child exploitation.
Though there is general talk about big events like the Super Bowl drawing more
instances of trafficking, Guelbart emphasized, “This is a 365-day-a-year crime.”
Identifying Human Trafficking
Instances of sex trafficking can be hard to spot, but Guelbart listed some of the
signs, many of which are related in some way to the travel industry and could be
apparent to a hotel or airline worker, such as the victim carrying minimal luggage
or not having identification or access to travel documents.
Another sign she noted that could send a signal to a hotel worker or guest is
a room in a hotel that opens and closes at regular intervals, perhaps every hour
Knowing the signs can help in people’s professional and personal lives.
One attendee in the audience from MPI’s Oregon chapter spoke about her
experience helping a victim at a gas station when she was heading out for a kayaking trip. A young girl was on her own hanging around the station and several
times got very close to the attendee while she was tying up a kayak on the roof.
The odd behavior at first felt threatening, but she had recently attended a
session on human trafficking and realized the girl could be in trouble.
She enlisted the help of two other women at the station who also felt there was
something amiss. They kept the girl, whose story kept changing, busy while the
attendee called the police.
It turns out it was a case of trafficking, and the girl was helped with the
How to Respond to and Stop Human Trafficking
Some of Guelbart’s advice for response includes notifying the manager of a hotel
or security in an airport and making note of details such as the date and time of
a suspected incident, names or nicknames overheard, physical identifiers such
as tattoos and vehicle or hotel room information.
Visit Meetings Today.com
for additional coverage of
MPI WEC 18, including
stories spotlighting sessions
on human trafficking, sexual
harassment and other hot
PRESENTS THE HOT LIST
WELLNESS SESSION BY KIM BERCOVITZ, SOCIAL VILLAGE