Reopening of U.S. Borders Is a Key Step for Association Events
For nearly 20 months, COVID-19-related restrictions have kept international travelers from attending events in the United States. With those bans lifted on November 8, organizations are looking forward to again welcoming international attendees.
After nearly 20 months of pandemic-related travel bans, the U.S. government lifted international border restrictions on November 8, allowing vaccinated travelers to enter the country. For organizations that host events with international attendees, it’s seen as a crucial step in the recovery process.
“This action is a key step in our economic recovery and marks a significant opportunity for U.S. association leaders to reconnect with our global community,” said Michelle Mason, FASAE, CAE, president and CEO of ASAE. “The travel and hospitality industry—and associations that host international meeting delegates—can feel encouraged that we are taking a much-needed step in our economic recovery. And to our international friends and colleagues, we look forward to welcoming you back to the United States.”
Removing the ban was also hailed by others in the events industry. Cathy Breden, CMP, CAE, CEO of the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, agreed that the lifted restrictions will improve recovery.
“The removal of barriers for international inbound travel will reflect positively on the recovery of the U.S. business-to-business exhibitions industry,” Breden said. “International exhibitors and visitors are eager to attend and conduct business at trade events in the U.S.”
According to the U.S. Travel Association, the halt of international travel between March 2020 and October 2021 “resulted in nearly $300 billion in lost export income and a loss of more than one million American jobs.”
Many associations, even as they have begun to return to in-person events, had to adjust to the travel restrictions by offering virtual components to their events. Kelly Bigel, vice president of business development for the American Society of Travel Advisors, said her organization was intent on adding a virtual component to its August 2021 Global Convention, in part, to allow access for its many international members who could not get into the U.S.
“One of the main purposes of this event is to connect travel advisors with suppliers and those are suppliers all around the world,” Bigel said, when she spoke about the event to Associations Now in September.
While virtual components have allowed some participation in events, many international participants and exhibitors would prefer to attend in person, and Monday’s reopening now allows that. Exhibitions and Conferences Alliance Co-President David DuBois, CMP, FASAE, CAE, said the lifting of restrictions helps the events industry move in the right direction.
“Allowing international travelers the ability to attend exhibitions and events in the U.S. is a great step forward in the industry’s recovery, as the value of the face-to-face marketplace greatly impacts not only the U.S. economy but the global economy as well,” said DuBois, who is also president and CEO of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events. “In 2021, we have seen that business-to-business events and conferences can be held in a safe and successful manner, and it is imperative to keep the needle moving in that direction.”
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