Discover The Palm Beaches (DTPB) is serious about putting an end to human trafficking — a significant initiative across the global travel industry. At two of its recent trade shows, DTPB worked with a local store, Shoppe 561, which sells goods by local artisans and donates a portion of its proceeds to Hope House Florida, a safe house that shelters minors who have been rescued from sex trafficking operations. Each time, the groups donated 10 percent of the sales to Place of Hope’s Human Trafficking Initiative.
“Preventing and stopping human trafficking is important not just to our community and our partners, but the industry as a whole,” Aly Fernandez, DTPB’s senior director of destination services and trade show activities, said. “We believe meetings have a much greater impact, and with additional efforts we all can shine a light of hope to help prevent this.”
Not only do these events help raise funds to combat human trafficking, they help highlight what The Palm Beaches have to offer — beyond the usual attractions — as a meetings destination. “They are helping us showcase South Florida as more than beaches and shopping, demonstrating that we are an area that cares about issues and is committed to making a difference,” Janelle Lang, owner of Shoppe 561, said of DTPB. “It is about representing our area well and shining a light on human trafficking and creating awareness, so regardless of where the guests are from, they are aware and can explore the issue in their area when they get home.”
Currently, an estimated 24.9 million people are trapped in modern-day slavery, 25 percent of whom are under the age of 18, according to a 2017 report from the International Labor Organization and Walk Free Foundation. These victims are often being exploited for different forms of forced physical and sexual labor. Considering that human trafficking often takes place in hotels, professionals in the travel, meetings, and events industries can help put an end to this crime. DTPB is especially passionate about this cause as Florida ranks third in reported U.S. human trafficking cases, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
“We know that every time there is a major sports event or otherwise, there is a high demand for sex and trafficking results,” Lang said. “Boys, girls, women, and men are moved into the area of the event for the sole purpose of being trafficked for sex. We desire to educate and increase awareness, so those in the industry are trained to recognize signs and in turn might be able to save a life.”
DTPB and Shoppe 561’s collaboration also exhibits the area’s diversity, while at the same time exposing event professionals to local artisans and their products. “We felt Shoppe 561 represented Florida artisans of all ages and stages of life,” Fernandez said. “Most of the items are also made by marginalized women. Plus, they’re flexible with their pop-up shops, offering a one-of-kind shopping experience for planners while also having a greater impact on the community.”