Originally published by Trade Show Executive July 2018 Edition
A few weeks ago we celebrated the fifth annual Exhibitions Day, in which members from all walks of our industry met with our nation’s representatives on Capitol Hill to discuss this year’s main call to action: create national economic prosperity by enabling business deals.
I am proud to report that we hit a new record of 125 attendees, which shows that the importance of advocating on behalf of our industry grows stronger in our collective consciousness. The latest stats released by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) this past May revealed that exhibitions and events contributed $91 billion to the U.S. GDP in 2017 – up from the previous $80 billion. As such, we need our government to address the issues that affect our ability to conduct business.
One key issue we focused on was ensuring the physical safety and security of exhibitions and events attendees. This effort has led us to work with the Department of Homeland Security to develop the Exhibitions and Meetings Safety and Security Initiative (EMSSI). IAEE, along with ESCA and IAVM, rallied nearly 60 organizations including over 25 convention centers and CVBs to support the implementation of a comprehensive security benchmark that aligns with the Department of Homeland Security’s SAFETY Act, thereby helping create safer and more secure large-scale events such as trade shows and exhibitions.
Last month we called on our representatives to consider the necessary resources of the DHS SAFETY Act Office to effectively foster the development and deployment of new anti-terrorism technologies.
Another form of protecting our industry is financially, which we have channeled into our aggressive stance against online booking scams. Upwards of 15 million fraudulent bookings are caused by these scams, resulting in more than $1.3 billion in lost revenue for hotels and money from consumers. Last year, the House and Senate introduced H.R. 2495 and S. 1164 – Stop Online Booking Scams Act – which would stop hotel booking scams and allow state attorneys general to pursue restitution and refunds on behalf of the victims. Currently, these bills are sitting with the House Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
On Exhibitions Day we asked our representatives to not only co-sponsor, but encourage their fellow Congress members, to support H.R. 2495 and S. 1164 so the Federal Trade Commission is empowered to investigate and penalize offenders.
We also focused on facilitating business travel to the U.S. and supporting the infrastructures that are paramount to our industry. From 2015 to 2017, the United States experienced a drop of 7.4 million international visitors. This decrease resulted in a loss of $32.2 billion in related visitor spending and inhibited the creation of 100,000 American jobs. IAEE joined other industry organizations to team with the Visit U.S. Coalition and send the message that “America is open for business.”
For example, the current administration’s recently proposed visa application rule requires five years’ worth of personal data. This would have affected nearly 15 million travelers last year – potentially doubling the record drop of international visitors. Therefore, we urged Congress to see business travel as a driver of economic growth and to oppose any measures that could further erode America’s market share of international travelers.
Another business matter is that of our nation’s travel infrastructures. According to the World Economic Forum, the U.S. ranks ninth in the world in infrastructure quality. Inadequate supply of infrastructure is one of our top 10 most problematic factors for doing business, and the lack of infrastructure investment in airports is costing the U.S. economy millions in revenue. Without proper travel infrastructure, it is extremely challenging to accommodate trade shows and compete with other countries for business travel.
Significant improvements are needed, so we asked our representatives to support measures that close the airport infrastructure investment gap, such as the $1.3 trillion omnibus appropriations bill for 2018 that includes $1 billion for new discretionary airport grants toward needed improvements.
I sincerely thank those who advocated for all of us on Capitol Hill last month. But we’re not done! Let us all continue to promote the value of face-to-face events by posting information about your exhibitions and events on social media, as well contributing your stories on how Exhibitions Mean Business to www.exhibitionsmeanbusiness.org.
The time for action is now!
David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA
President & CEO