Visitor visa issues impede participation in trade shows and act as a barrier to foreign trade, since they keep U.S. companies from meeting with clients and prospects, concludes a new landmark study from the Center for Exhibition Research (CEIR).
Titled, "The Economic Impact of International Non-Participation in the Exhibition Industry Due to U.S. Visa Issues," the study was conducted for CEIR by Oxford Economics, which conducted a nationwide survey of the exhibition industry in summer 2010 and found that:
• Visa issues precluded 116,000 international participants — including 78,400 international attendees and 37,900 international exhibitors — from attending U.S. exhibitions.
• With no visa barriers in place, the U.S. economy would realize increases in business sales totaling at least $2.4 billion, including $1.5 billion in business-to-business trade, $540 million in registration fees and exhibition space spending, and $295 million in visitor spending.
• The new $2.4 billion in sales would sustain more than 17,500 jobs directly and 43,000 jobs overall, and would generate $750 million in state and federal taxes.
According to CEIR, current U.S. visa policy discourages or makes it impossible for many foreign travelers to obtain a visa to enter the country to conduct business at trade shows and exhibitions. Many of the visa interviews that take place at consulate offices, for instance, last just two minutes and offer no opportunity to explain one's need for the visa.
"This study quantifies the importance of U.S. exhibitions in generating export trade and stimulating job growth," said International Association of Exhibition and Events (IAEE) President and CEO Steven Hacker. "While we are mindful of the need for careful screening of international visitors entering the U.S., keeping our borders secure should not be at the expense of keeping our economy open for business. The U.S. will lose sales to other countries if we continue on this path. We intend to present these findings to several key federal agencies, including the State, Homeland Security and Commerce departments, and to work with officials to find an optimal solution."
According to CEIR, sales would increase most in the manufacturing and business services industries, although hotels and restaurants also would benefit, experiencing nearly $150 million and $60 million, respectively, in additional sales.
For more information about the CEIR report, including complete findings, visit www.ceir.org.