It began with a request from the Sisters of St. Joseph Federation, who wanted to ensure their 2008 national gathering was at a hotel that worked to stop human trafficking.
Kimberly Ritter, senior account manager at Nix Conference & Meeting Management, laughed at the idea. “I said, ‘Well, we’re not in India, Sister.’ ”
But the sister explained that human trafficking happens everywhere, even in the United States, and at rates that would shock most people: The U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline reports 10,360 cases of identified trafficking in 2021 involving nearly 17,000 victims.
“Then we researched the details and found that the average age of entry into sex trafficking is 12 to 13, and [Nix owner] Molly Hackett and I both had daughters that age. We couldn’t believe it,” Ritter said. “And it’s happening in hotels, where we spend millions of the sisters’ money. We knew we had to do something.”
So the St. Louis-based Nix worked with the hotel hosting the Sisters of St. Joseph Federation to sign ECPAT-USA’s Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism, a voluntary set of business principles that travel and tour companies can implement to prevent sexual exploitation and trafficking of children.
Nix employees then wondered why they should stop with just one hotel, since they have the buying power to demand every hotel they contract with sign the code of conduct. In 2012, Nix became the first non-hotel company to adopt the code.
At the time, Backpage.com was notorious for running advertisements selling sex, and many ads featured women and girls who had been trafficked. Nix employees, who see hundreds of hotels every year, found they could identify the locations of those women and girls based on the pictures that Backpage.com posted with these ads. But when there were photos of hotels they didn’t recognize, “we realized an office of meeting planners wasn’t enough,” Ritter said.Global Sisters Report