ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI – As the FBI cracked down on child sex traffickers nationwide last weekend — arresting 159 pimps and rescuing 105 children — Nix Conference & Meeting Management was working behind the scenes, planning a conference on the issue and urging hotels managers to set policies and train employees on ways to spot child prostitution.
“Hotel staff and business travelers are in a prime position to help end child sex trafficking,” said Molly Hackett, principal of Nix Conference & Meeting Management, a St. Louis firm leading the charge to raise awareness in the hospitality and business travel industry.
In addition to addressing child sex trafficking at every hotel they encounter as meeting planners, Nix is planning a spring 2014 conference “Ignite: Sparking Action Against Sex Trafficking” to educate hotel management and companies whose employees travel on business. They hope to motivate corporate America to take up the fight against child sex trafficking.
“Even companies outside the meeting planning industry can educate their travelling employees to spot signs of child sex abuse when they get on a plane or check into a hotel,” said Hackett.
Nix has an extensive reach in the hotel industry, booking 21,000 room nights a year for clients at more than 50 hotels in the U. S. and internationally, and researching another 500 hotels. The St. Louis-based meeting planning firm helped develop and was the first to sign a Meeting Planner’s Code of Conduct with ECPAT-USA (End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking).
“We embraced this issue to bring it to light, not because we thought it would enhance our business in any way,” said Hackett, co-owner of Nix with Jane Quinn. “In fact, most hotel executives are shocked and resistant when we suggest that child sex trafficking may be happening at their properties. But once they know the signs to look for, they and their staff can make a real difference in a child’s life.”
Those signs, Hackett says, are subtle – a young girl who looks helpless, nervous, fearful or disoriented. Makeup or clothing that is inappropriate for her age. A companion who doesn’t seem like the right fit. The conference Nix is planning will sensitize meeting planners, hotel managers and business travelers to spot the signs and to know what to do if they suspect child sex abuse.
Millions of children are exploited in the global child sex trade each year, at fine hotels as well as seedy motels. At least 300,000 American children and 1.2 million children worldwide are prostituted each year according to UNICEF. The average age when they first become involved is just 12 to 14.
Nix Conference & Meeting Management, based in St. Louis, has managed meetings, conferences and trade shows on four continents and in 17 countries since 1985, for associations, religious organizations, businesses and nonprofit organizations. For more information, call (314) 645-1455 or visit www.nixassoc.com.