During the pandemic, a coalition of nine professional, industry, and labor associations was formed to represent a unified voice for the face-to-face business events industry. The Exhibition & Conferences Alliance (ECA) mission is dedicated to the recovery and advancement of the industry and ensuring policymakers understand and support the vital role that face-to-face business events have on economies, job creation, and supporting small businesses.
ECA’s Legislative Action Week, June 6 – 10, 2022, was a week-long virtual event that brought together advocates and leaders from across the business events industry to meet with members of Congress about the vital role business events play in expanding economies. In Ohio, where Exhibit Concepts is headquartered, the face-to-face business events industry accounts for nearly 75,000 jobs and has an economic impact of $9.3B. Business events drive demand for restaurants, hotels, travel, transportation, and tourist experiences.
The face-to-face business events industry was one of the first to fully shut down due to the pandemic and one of the last to reopen. The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) data from Q1 2022 indicates that the industry is still down 37.9% from pre-pandemic levels. And while other parts of the economy are fully recovered, the business events ecosystem continues to need support.
The Legislative Action Week’s virtual meetings with members of Congress and their staff gave our industry the opportunity to share ECA’s 3-Point Recovery Plan:
- Supporting small business relief: 99% of all business events companies are small businesses, and 80% of the 1.7 million exhibitors at exhibitions and conferences are small businesses.
- Pandemic risk insurance: as Covid-19 struck, many exhibition and conference organizers were able to keep the lights on because they had communicable disease coverage in their event cancellation insurance. Insurance companies are no longer offering that coverage.
- International travel: Before the pandemic, some trade shows and conferences had more than 25% of their participants travelling from overseas. While the U.S. just recently did away with its requirement of Covid testing for international travelers, wait times for visa interviews are nearly a year, meaning that many international exhibitors and buyers are unable to participate in U.S. events.
Other industries like hospitality, restaurants, and airlines are more universally recognized, and needed relief and support were made available more quickly. If you have never been to a trade show before or considered all the different companies involved in making the event happen it’s hard to understand the widespread, devastating impact of the pandemic. Events are happening, which is great news. However, there is still work to be done before the industry is entirely back on its feet.
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