On March 21, International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) president Steven Hacker testified before the Senate Appropriations Sub-Committee on Homeland Security, on the subject of visa reform in regards to the tradeshow industry, calling the U.S. the “Blackberry” of international travel.
“For the exhibitions and events industry, the last 10 years has been a decade of lost opportunity and frustration,” said Hacker. “Because of the difficulties that so many international visitors have had securing a U.S. visa, many international buyers are attending exhibitions and events in other nations often purchasing products and services that are more expensive and not as well made as U.S. manufactured goods.”
Drawing data from the CEIR Study, The Economic Impact of International Non-Participation in the Exhibition Industry Due to U.S. Visa Issues conducted in 2011 by Oxford Economics, Hacker informed the committee that visa issues prevent 116,000 international visitors from attending U.S. exhibitions each year, including 78,400 buyers and 37,900 exhibitors. Hacker also said that reducing visa barriers the U.S. economy would realize increases in business sales just from U.S. events of about $3 billion a year, creating more than 17,500 jobs directly and 43,000 jobs indirectly.
Concluding his testimony, Hacker recommended to the committee that a comprehensive visa strategy is needed to support the mutual goals of enhancing both economic competitiveness and national security. To achieve that objective, he recommended that a U.S. visa commission consisting of personnel drawn from State, Commerce, and Homeland Security, as well as executives recruited from the private sector be created. Additionally, Hacker said that the Visa Waiver Program should be expanded rapidly to include trading partners like Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Poland who are likeliest to buy U.S. products and services.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) is chairwoman of the Sub-Committee and invited Hacker to testify. Other members of the Sub-Committee include: Sen. Frank Lautenberg (vice chairman) (D-N.J.), Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Ark.), and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.).
IAEE Members residing in states represented by a member of the Sub-Committee are urged to contact their senator to offer support of the IAEE recommendations in an email message or letter.