June 18, 2024 5:48 AM
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Where Power and Business Events Meet: Legislative Action Day

by Chris Kappes, Exhibit City News


It’s easy to forget that behind the business events ecosystem lies a web of legislation that creates, defines, and regulates our daily operations. This year’s Legislative Action Day on May 30 served as a powerful reminder.

Over 130 business event executives, including myself, gathered in the nation’s capital to meet with senators and representatives, advocating for legislation that impacts the health and future of our industry.

Walking the halls of Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., you can feel the immense power and responsibility of our elected representatives. At any given time, thousands of bills and resolutions (15,378 today) are being drafted, debated, and prepared for a vote. Only about 7% will become law.

Why is this day so important for the industry?

The business events industry employs 2.6 million Americans and generates $399 billion (about $1,200 per person in the US) in direct spending annually. However, many elected officials have never attended a tradeshow or understand the economic power of business events to drive growth, support job creation, and empower small businesses in their constituencies.

Under the leadership of Tommy Goodwin, Vice President of the Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance (ECA), legislative advocacy is making significant strides. Goodwin could be referred to as the “pied piper” of business events. He leads an alliance network that champions our industry’s interests, ensuring that our issues are heard. This year, Congress will act on two key issues with strong bipartisan support:

Reducing Visa Wait Times: 

International attendees at U.S. business events spend an average of $11,600, and international exhibitors spend around $36,100. However, post-COVID, event organizers face challenges welcoming back these crucial participants due to prolonged visa wait times. Common delays include 849 days for Mexico, 640 days for Bogotá, Colombia, and 499 days for Mumbai, India. Fewer international exhibitors and attendees means reduced revenue. ECA supports legislation to increase U.S. consular office flexibility and capacity, aiming to prevent these delays.

Increasing Workforce Development

In 2020, 2.8 million business event workers were furloughed or laid off, and only 2.5 million have returned, creating a significant workforce shortfall. ECA is advocating for the expansion of Pell Grant eligibility to help close the skills gap, ensuring workers receive the job training and credentials needed to strengthen the industry’s workforce.

Legislative Action Day underscores the crucial link between legislative power and live events. By engaging directly with lawmakers, the business events industry can advocate for policies that support its continued growth and success. This ensures that our sector remains a significant driver of economic activity and job creation in the United States. We must remain focused and vigilant, and this Day put many things in perspective for this writer.

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