The Professional Convention Management Association underscored the organization's commitment to effect positive social change this week, signing on to a travel-industry initiative to combat human trafficking. The outgoing chair of the PCMA Foundation, Maritz Global Events president David Peckinpaugh, announced the signing in Pittsburgh during the annual Convening Leaders conference. PCMA became a signatory to the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism, in partnership with ECPAT-USA, a network of civil organizations dedicated to ending the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
"We must educate and build awareness around this issue," said Peckinpaugh. "It's in every neighborhood, and it's happening at events. We have the power of advocating and raising awareness of the human-trafficking epidemic, and have a stronger voice for the vulnerable, whose opinions and opportunities have been taken away from them."
Peckinpaugh believes the next step in the antitrafficking fight will take the form of an industry coalition, which he said could be launched in the next 60 to 90 days.
"This is extremely important to us, and we will continue to forward the issue," added PCMA president and CEO Sheriff Karamat, who took the reins of the organization following last year's Convening Leaders conference. "It is both a global and a local issue, and we will bring a true spotlight to what I consider a human scourge."
While the trafficking fight is a cornerstone issue for the organization, it is also indicative of an overall shift in focus. PCMA's new mission statement is to drive global economic and social transformation through business events, and that theme was noticeable throughout the event's agenda this week. General sessions placed a heavy emphasis on open-mindedness and the fight for social change, among them presentations from tennis star and feminist icon Billie Jean King; actor Geena Davis, whose See Jane institute shares research about gender representation in the media and unconscious bias; author and corporate executive Steve Pemberton, who through his own story conveyed the importance of understanding people rather than classifying them; and Nadya Okamoto, who at the age of 16 founded a nonprofit, Period, that provides menstrual hygiene products to the homeless.
Attendance at the event was down from last year's total, which Karamat attributed in large part to the slightly earlier show dates. Unaudited figures on the opening afternoon indicated 3,894 people attending in person, with another 1,261 viewing via a remote stream. While those figures will grow, they won't match last year's record numbers of 4,457 in-person and 1,604 virtual attendees.
Karamat noted, however, that head count is not an accurate measure of industry success, referring again to PCMA's new mission. "Nothing about our numbers matter if we don't do anything to make society better," he said. "We must make sure our communities worldwide are doing well."