by Alex Palmer | June 06, 2019

Leaders in the exhibitions industry visited Washington, D.C., yesterday to lobby for several major policy points that affect trade shows throughout the country as part of the annual Exhibitions Day. A number of exhibition professionals held face-to-face meetings with members of Congress to invest in infrastructure, protect Brand USA and take other steps to encourage travel to the U.S.

First organized in 2014 by the industry organization Exhibitions Mean Business, the event aims to spotlight the economic benefits trade shows bring to both local economies and the country as a whole. Indeed, it it estimated that exhibitions contributed some $97 billion to the U.S. GDP in 2018 alone, according to just-released research from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research.

"Exhibitions Day is an important moment for our industry to come together and create change that betters the American business environment for events," said IAEE president and CEO David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA. "These unique platforms play a vital role in the success of businesses and our local and national economies. It's critical for us to communicate that value and our concerns with leaders."

The event focused on four key policy areas:

Secure Travel Partnership Act of 2019 (H.R. 1996)
This bill proposes that the Immigration and Nationality Act rename the Visa Waiver Program to the Secure Travel Partnership. The current program, administered by the Department of Homeland Security, allows prescreened citizens from participating countries to enter the U.S. for 90 days or less without a visa. 

JOLT Act of 2019 (H.R. 2187) 
The Jobs Originating through Launching Travel (aka JOLT) Act of 2019 would include such reforms as allowing Canadian travelers to visit the U.S. for up to 240 days (an increase of the current 180) and set a goal of 15 days for reviewing non-immigrant visas.

Investment in U.S. Infrastructure
Exhibitions Day attendees asked legislators to support measures that invest in infrastructure to better allow for trade shows to be more easily hosted throughout the country. 

Protection of Brand USA
Attendees urged legislators not to defund the marketing program Brand USA, which promotes the U.S. overseas. Exhibitions Mean Business pointed to an Oxford Economics study that found the program's six-year effort resulted in a 28:1 return on investment.  

The event took place a day after CEIR released its findings that the exhibition industry caused direct, indirect or induced contributions of $97 billion to the U.S. GDP in 2018 -- an increase of 4.3 percent over 2017. 

"This growth is an indicator of the power of face-to-face meetings as an important sales and marketing tool," said CEIR chairperson of the board and Promotional Products Association International executive vice president Robert McLean, CPA, CAE.