Originally published by Trade Show Executive
Last month more than 100 industry advocates united in Washington, D.C. for the sixth annual Exhibitions Day, our yearly mission to discuss with U.S. leaders the issues most directly affecting our industry. We continue to generate economic growth for the U.S. each year, as reflected in the June update from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) revealing that exhibitions and events contributed $97 billion to the U.S. GDP in 2018 – up from $93 billion in 2017. As such, it is crucial we make our voices heard when it comes to legislation pertaining to our ability to conduct business.
As I mentioned in May, our overarching message to members of Congress remains to protect our business environment and make it as conducive as possible to hold face-to-face meetings, exhibitions and events that bring buyers and sellers together. This call to action encompasses facilitating business travel, promoting free and fair trade, and ensuring domestic security.
One of the key issues we support is investing in America’s transportation infrastructure. Unfortunately, this is something that has been neglected for several decades, to the extent that it is costing the U.S. economy billions of dollars in revenue. This applies not only to our roads and highways, but to airports, rail and transit systems. Obviously, getting people to a meeting or trade show constitutes the lifeblood of our industry. Therefore, this year we urged Congress to support funding improvements and additions to these vital means of transportation.
International travel is also essential to our business, and this year we supported two different bills that address this segment of our economy. The Secure Travel Partnership Act of 2019 (H.R. 1996) was introduced to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act. H.R. 1996 calls for renaming the Visa Waiver Program to the Secure Travel Partnership, which will better reflect the level of security the program offers. International travelers who apply to the program are highly vetted, and the information sharing among the program’s 38 participating countries has been increased, as well as efficiently streamlined.
This program is the gold standard in international travel security. Perhaps the general public does not realize that visitors from these 38 countries help generate a $77 billion trade surplus for the U.S. Or, may even confuse the current name to imply that visas are waived to those international travelers when that could not be further from truth. We must embrace policies that enhance the global business travel market, as well as clearly communicating their functions, for the good of our economy.
The Jolt Act of 2019 (H.R. 2187) also strengthens our international stance by providing the necessary flexibility to the Secretary of Homeland Security to admit new countries to the current Visa Waiver Program. Stimulating international business travel will also grow the more than 1.2 million jobs across the U.S. that are directly supported by international inbound travel. H.R. 2187 will add to helping the U.S. regain its share of the global travel market.
While we fully support our international business income channels, we also adamantly advocate protecting Brand USA, the federally supported organization that promotes America overseas as a business and tourist destination. It is a bipartisan program that does not burden U.S. taxpayers because it is funded by inbound airline passenger fees and private industry. Brand USA’s efforts are imperative to attracting international business travel, investment, and free and fair trade.
Just this year, an Oxford Economics study found that for every dollar Brand USA spent on marketing its benefits, $28 was spent by international visitors. That’s a 28:1 return on investment favoring our economy! We strongly urged our members of Congress to oppose any measures to defund Brand USA and to recognize reduced funding as a measure that hurts our national economy.
We made some great headway on Capitol Hill once again this year, and I genuinely thank all who participated and supported Exhibitions Day. But our work continues. 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.
David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA
President & CEO