Trade Show and Travel Leaders Herald New Infrastructure Bill

Sue Pelletier, Senior Editor
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Bridge and Pier

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The new bipartisan infrastructure bill President Biden signed into law Nov. 15 earmarks $550 billion for transportation projects that will upgrade airports, roads, bridges, the railway system, mass transit and more. It will, U.S. Travel Association (USTA) President and CEO Roger Dow said, “have a profound impact on how people travel for decades to come” — including business travelers such as those heading to U.S.-based trade shows.

“The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will provide essential funding for the airports, roads, railroads and broadband that we rely on every day to successfully deliver business events from coast to coast,” Hervé Sedky, Board Chair of the Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance (ECA), said. “These investments will ensure that our nation’s infrastructure is ready to support the industry as we bring back the face-to-face conferences and trade shows at scale that will help get Americans back to business and back to work.”

“The effects of the pandemic will be felt for some time within the events ecosystem,” IAEE President and CEO David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA, said. “We applaud Congress for this bipartisan deal to jumpstart upgrading our domestic infrastructure to create a more accommodating marketplace for global business.”

CEIR CEO Cathy Breden, CMP, CAE, CEM, added, “Contributions to U.S. GDP fell close to 80% due to in-person B2B exhibitions essentially shutting down beginning in March 2020. With expected recovery to meet 2019 levels by 2023, now is the time to begin making the U.S. a more hospitable destination for global travelers to conduct business in our cities.”

The new law will provide $25 billion to update and improve U.S. airports, which is a big leap from the approximately $3.5 billion annually they receive now in Airport Improvement Program funds.

“With air travel on the rise, America’s airports look forward to getting to work on hundreds of essential improvement projects that will expand the capacity of our terminals and runways, increase the resiliency of our infrastructure, and improve the overall passenger experience,” Airports Council International-North America President/CEO Kevin Burke said in a statement.

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It also will provide $110 billion for roads, bridges and other major roadway projects; $40 billion for repairing, replacing and rehabbing bridges; $39 billion to bring public transit up to date; and $66 billion to modernize passenger and freight rail, including eliminating Amtrak’s maintenance backlog and expanding rail service outside of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions.

“By making historic investments in our transportation infrastructure now, we can emerge from the pandemic with stronger, more modern and efficient systems that can facilitate a resurgence in travel demand,” Dow said. “U.S. Travel has strongly advocated for this important piece of legislation and championed these important policies for years. The historic levels of travel infrastructure investment provided by this act — including for airports, railways, highways, electric vehicle charging infrastructure and more — will accelerate the future of travel mobility.”

The bill also establishes a Chief Travel and Tourism Officer at the Department of Transportation to help coordinate travel and tourism policy across all modes of transportation. This role, said Dow, “will be vital for rebuilding our industry and preparing to welcome back visitors from around the world.”

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The law also provides for non-transportation-related funding, including $65 billion to improve the nation’s broadband infrastructure.

While American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) President and CEO Chip Rogers joined Dow and Burke in heralding the new influx of infrastructure funding, he wasn’t as gung-ho on where some of the funding was to originate.

“Reliable and modern infrastructure is vital to the hotel industry because it facilitates travel, commerce and American competitiveness,” said Rogers. “This package would go a long way toward achieving those ends, but it comes at a steep cost. The bill would terminate the Employee Retention Tax Credit two months early. Many hotels and their employees are counting on this program — especially given lingering COVID-19 concerns and the negative economic impact they are having on hotels. While we strongly support investment in our nation’s infrastructure, struggling hotel employees and small businesses should not be forced to bear that cost, and AHLA will continue advocating to maintain programs that are helping hoteliers through the pandemic.”
 

Reach Roger Dow at (202) 408-8422 or rdow@ustravel.org; Hervé Sedky at herve.sedky@emeraldx.com; David DuBois at (972) 687-9204 or ddubois@iaee.com; Cathy Breden at (972) 687-9201 or cbreden@iaee.com; Kevin Burke at (202) 293-8500; Chip Rogers at  (202) 289-3100