By K.D. Norris
Tourism and hospitality industry leaders will be meeting with the local chapter of Women at Risk International (WAR) on July 20 for a day-long session to help educate the business community on the dangers of human trafficking as well as provide resources to help combat this growing crime against women, children and others.
But those interested in simply getting more information on the issue are invited to attend.
“The event is open to anyone who would like to attend, but much of the information will be focused in toward hospitality and tourism related businesses,” said Dianna Stampfler, executive director of the Kent County Hospitality Association. “Much of the underlying information and statistics however will be related to anyone interested in learning more about this epidemic.”
For a story on how one local college student became involved, see WKTV’s story here.
The event is Thursday, July 20, from 9 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. at the downtown Grand Rapids Courtyard Marriott. The conference is sponsored by the Kent County Hospitality Association, Women in Lodging-Grand Rapids and Experience Grand Rapids.
According to supplied information, Michigan is one of the leading states for human trafficking — a modern-day form of slavery. It is defined but the U.S. Department of State as: the “recruiting, harboring, transportation, providing, or obtaining of a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through force, fraud, or coercion”.
Human trafficking affects over 20 million victims worldwide, according to the Polaris Project, with a total market value of over $32 billion. More than 1.2 million children are trafficked each year and this epidemic affects at least 161 countries worldwide. Between 100,000 and 300,000 underage girls are sold for sex in the United States every year.
According to WAR, in many instances, hotels and motels, in both rural and urban areas are prime locations for human trafficking activity. And, when there are major influxes of people — such as during major events like ArtPrize — cases often soar.
The conference will allow tourism and hospitality professionals to find out why such activity is bad for business, how to be on the lookout for this crime and how to report suspicious activity.
The cost of the conference is $35 per person, with registration available by visiting here.