by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | August 01, 2004
A new survey finds a significant number of U.S. meetings and trade shows have been forced to relocate overseas due to the difficulties encountered by foreign attendees trying to attain visas to enter the United States. 
    The report, released in June by the Santangelo Group, a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm, was commissioned by a consortium of eight organizations, including the National Foreign Trade Council and the U.S.-China Business Council, to address concerns about the effects of post-9/11 visa policies on business. 
    Of the 141 companies responding to the survey, “Many said they had set up meetings abroad to avoid the problem of meeting in the United States,” said Charles Santangelo, president of the research firm, which is made up of former government officials and Fortune 500 executives.
    For example, Amway Korea canceled an 8,000-person convention to be held in the States earlier this year due to difficulty in obtaining attendee visas. The group estimated its convention business was worth about $15 million.
Indeed, 18 percent of respondents cited the forced relocation of trade shows, expositions and contract talks as their biggest issue, added Santangelo. 
    Countries whose citizens experienced the greatest difficulty in acquiring visas included China, India, Indonesia and Russia. The snags cost U.S. businesses $30 billion in lost revenues between July 2002 and March of this year, said the report.
    In one instance, Schaumburg, Ill.-based Motorola said a $10 million contract to supply two-way radios to the Vietnamese government was in peril because of the delay in issuing visas to Vietnamese decision-makers.
   “Our companies have expressed frustration to Congress on this issue for nearly two years, to no avail,” said Bill Reinsch, president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Trade Council. “Now that we have measured the costs, the results are clear.”
    The most cited visa problems included excessively long waiting times to receive an interview and arbitrary visa denials.