by Sarah J.F. Braley | February 01, 2017

The Meetings Mean Business Coalition is heading efforts to create a unified industry response to President Trump's recent executive order on immigration and refugees, which has caused confusion worldwide and wreaked havoc at airports.

In a statement, current co-chairs Richard Harper, executive vice president of HelmsBriscoe, and Paul Van Deventer, left, president and CEO of Meeting Professionals International, said, "The administration's executive order on immigration and refugees has led to concern and confusion across the meetings industry. Our industry is all about bringing people together, fostering relationships, driving positive outcomes and supporting communities. We are continuing to monitor the issue and will be reaching out to our members to understand how the executive order is affecting them. At the same time, Meetings Mean Business joins with industry partners in reaffirming that it's critical to strike the right balance between enhanced security and travel facilitation. Together, we urge the administration to conduct its review of the visa-issuance protocols quickly, and trust that it will yield an even more secure travel-security system that protects international travelers and welcomes them into our country whether traveling for a meeting or leisure."

As part of MMB's industrywide response, the organization has developed a short survey to assess impact to the meetings industry. It will be important for our advocacy efforts to understand the near- and long-term impacts, as well as any specific challenges our industry faces. All MMB members are asked to complete the survey and share it with others in the industry. The survey will remain open until Feb. 10. Click here to take the survey. 

The Professional Convention Management Association, headed by president and CEO Deborah Sexton, is one of the organizations supporting MMB's efforts.
"Last week's executive order on immigration and refugees has left many of us with questions on how this will potentially impact our meetings and events, for both North American programs that have attendees from outside of North America and global programs with North American attendees," Sexton wrote in an email.
Speaking for MPI, Van Deventer added, "We are concerned the recently signed U.S. executive order on immigration and refugees could have negative impacts on our global membership community and the meeting and event industry. MPI is lending its full support to the Meetings Mean Business Coalition and its efforts to monitor this issue and understand potential implications. We will unite with fellow coalition members to advocate for our industry."

ASAE also released a statement on the order from the White House. "While ASAE supports strong screening of travelers entering the U.S., it's clear that this order was too hastily enacted, sparking chaos and confusion across the world," said ASAE President and CEO John H. Graham IV, FASAE, CAE. "Not only does it concern us in terms of the impact on international attendance at association meetings and conferences, it raises questions about whether we are making policy as a nation based on religion. ASAE urges the administration to clarify the intent of this order and confirm our nation's commitment to equality and humanitarianism. We will be continuing to work with the Meetings Mean Business Coalition and other like-minded organizations to jointly address this issue. We will also reach out to our members to see how this ban affects them and their own members, and we'll be closely monitoring this issue moving forward, with a goal toward clarifying the order and making sure our members can operate effectively and facilitate international travel to their conferences and events." 

The International Association of Exhibitions and Events has spoken out, as well: "The global exhibitions industry contributes more than $200 billion to world economies, with roughly $77 billion contributed to the U.S. GDP annually," said Ryan Strowger, CEM, chair of IAEE and senior vice president of exhibitions, conferences and sales for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. "Furthermore, more than 42 million visitors attend 9,400-plus business-to-business exhibitions and events in the U.S. alone, and IAEE members and stakeholders are rightfully concerned about the long-term ramifications of restrictions placed on global travelers coming to the U.S."

Among similar efforts by associations representing business travel buyers and suppliers, a survey conducted by Association of Corporate Travel Executives found significant fear and uncertainty, as well as plans to reduce corporate travel as a result of the policy.

For more information about the Executive Order and the industry's response to it, please visit MMB's dedicated, updated webpage.