WASHINGTON, DC — More than 120 industry professionals met with senators, congressional representatives and their staff on Capitol Hill during the 6th annual Exhibitions Day, hosted and organized by the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE). The association coordinated and set up more than 100 meetings with congressional members and their legislative staff on June 5.
“Exhibitions Day is an important moment for our industry to come together and create change that betters the American business environment for events,” IAEE President and CEO David DuBois said. “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 advocacy effort was a key part of Global Exhibitions Day (#GED) festivities that were celebrated around the globe. GED was launched four years ago by IAEE and UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry.
Prior to Exhibitions Day 2019, IAEE hosted a webinar for first-time participants to help them get comfortable with the process.
On June 4, IAEE offered a briefing on the key issues and tips on how to conduct meetings with members and staff. “What you are doing is vitally important,” said Roger Rickard, President & Founder, Voices in Advocacy. “According to a survey by the Congressional Management Foundation, when members and staff were asked what influences you the most in making your decisions, the No. 1 influencer are in-person visits from people like you, constituents, to help educate them on what’s going on in the country and their districts.”
After an orientation at the Reserve Officers Association, IAEE hosted a networking reception, which was sponsored by Trade Show Executive.
“It’s a privilege to support this event and align with one of our global partners,” said Gabrielle Weiss, Publisher and Editor of Trade Show Executive, the title sponsor for Exhibitions Day 2019. “This is more than a picture and a post. We are talking to our legislatures and advocating for our industry in a real way. We are here demonstrating our dedication to not only to shine a light on our industry but to improve our ability to expand the exhibitions business.”
Key Issues Addressed
Each year, the IAEE Advocacy Committee helps to plan and promote Exhibitions Day. With input from supporting organizations like the U.S. Travel Association (USTA) and the American Society of Association Executives the committee starts with a list of six to eight issues and then hones the final cut to no more then four issues, DuBois said.
Participants talked to policymakers about four issues facing the exhibition industry that could be affected by legislation and funding. These include:
- Passing the Secure Travel Partnership Act of 2019 (H.R. 1996). Passing H.R. 1996 would rename the Visa Waiver Program to the Secure Travel Partnership Act. Often confused with contentious immigrations bills, the renaming of the longstanding Visa Waiver Program will help lawmakers build support for the Jolt Act and open up secure travel to the U.S. “The Visa Waiver program is the gold standard in travel security because it requires heightened security operations, increased information sharing, and travelers from all 38 participating countries are prescreened before boarding their inbound flights,” said Will Brown, Senior Director, Government Affairs, USTA. According to research provided to the group, visitors from the approved 38 countries helped generated a $77 billion trade surplus for the U.S. in 2017. In fact, the 23 million travelers who arrived in the U.S. though the Visa Wavier Program countries generated $190 billion in economic activity.
- Supporting the JOLT Act of 2019 (H.R. 2187). More than 1.2 million jobs across America are directly supported by international inbound travel. Advocates encouraged House members to support the JOLT Act, which provides flexibility to the Secretary of Homeland Security to admit new countries to the currently named Visa Waiver Program.
- Investing in America’s infrastructure. According to the World Economic Forum, inadequate infrastructure is one of the top factors impeding U.S. business, making it extremely challenging to accommodate trade shows within states. Attendees asked Congressional members to support measures that invest in transportation mobility at airports, highways, passenger rail and transit systems.
- Protecting Brand USA. Funded by inbound airline passenger fees and private industry, Brand USA is a bipartisan program that promotes the country overseas as a business and tourist destination. A 2019 study by Oxford Economics showed that Brand USA’s six-year marketing results equate to an average marketing ROI of 28:1, meaning every $1 of Brand USA marketing generated $28 in spend. Attendees urged Congress to oppose measures to defund Brand USA, and to recognize that reduced funding would hurt the health of our economy.
3 Things You Can Do Now
- Contact your Congressional representatives and ask them to sponsor and support the Secure Travel Partnership Act of 2019 (H.R. 1996) and the JOLT Act of 2019 (H.R. 2187). Find contact information for your representatives and a link to their Twitter handles at www.exhibitionsday.org
- Provide policymakers with background information on the value of exhibitions and the critical issues that impact the event business. Go to www.exhibitionsday.org for stats and infographics you can download.
- Mark your calendar to participate in next year’s Exhibitions Day on June 3, 2020.
For more on the key issues, go to the Exhibitions Mean Business website at www.exhibitionsday.org. Next year’s Exhibitions Day is scheduled for Wednesday, June 3, 2020.
Be sure to read the full event recap in Trade Show Executive’s July issue.