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Free and Open Trade is Valuable: Exhibitions and Events Mean Business

Originally published by Trade Show Executive June 2017

As I noted in last month’s column, the latest findings from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) report that the exhibitions and events industry generated $80 billion toward the U.S. GDP in 2016. According to the latest CEIR Census, more than 9,400 Business-to-Business (B2B) events were held in the U.S., drawing 33.2 million attendees to these B2B events.

These figures reflect the importance of our industry in the overall business market, which means that the current administration and Congress have a lot of decisions to make regarding our position on international trade in terms of how it affects the business of exhibitions and events. As they review U.S. international trade policies, their deliberations will influence trade shows that depend on inbound and outbound travel for international attendees and exhibitors.

One of the models that our industry strongly supports is the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Buyer Program (IBP). The IBP is a joint government-industry effort that brings thousands of international buyers to the United States for business-to-business matchmaking with U.S. firms exhibiting at major industry trade shows. As noted on the IBP website at, the program pre-screens potential buyers, representatives and distributors for increased compatibility. Participants in the program are also able to list their products and services in the Export Interest Directory, which is distributed to all international visitors.

The IBP also offers customized services such as:

  • “Plan and Assess” to develop an international business strategy;
  • “Promote and Expand” to increase your brand awareness and market exposure; and
  • “Export Successes” to learn how to achieve export sales.

Many of IAEE’s members have used this program to apply for grants and receive aid in funding pavilions for U.S. companies exhibiting abroad, for example, and working with U.S. embassies in foreign countries to drive promotions for upcoming events. The collaborative relationship that our industry has built with the U.S. government allows us to continue improving upon successes we have achieved through initiatives such as Exhibitions Day and the Exhibitions Mean Business Campaign.

The important thing to remember is that this is a relationship – meaning it depends on continued participation from our industry. We must, as an industry, continue to contribute our collective knowledge and voice so that programs such as the IBP can continue to support the key understandings that free and fair trade is vital to our economy and that exhibitions and events mean business. I strongly recommend visiting to find out more about the IBP, including how to apply.

Speaking of Exhibitions Day, I will have an update for you on this year’s event in next month’s column. I can tell you that some of the issues being addressed on Capitol Hill this year include safety and security, and improvements to travel infrastructure. Once again, IAEE and this year’s 20 participating industry organizations worked with our Advocacy Committee and Voices of Advocacy® Founder Roger Rickard to represent the interests of our thriving industry. This initiative is growing stronger each year, and I look forward to giving you the details of what we accomplished.

David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA
President & CEO

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