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Meetings industry responds to Trump’s controversial travel ban

Suppliers and associations alert to potential risks as new administration makes its case

Pictured: President Donald Trump

The meetings industry on both sides of the Atlantic has started responding to a controversial travel ban on seven mainly Muslim countries imposed by US President Donald Trump.

While some have counselled caution and a ‘wait and see' approach, others have pushed industry bodies to start lobbying the White House to ‘limit the damage to the meetings industry’.

Trump's executive order bars entry of foreign citizens from Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Iran for 90 days and halts the US' entire refugee programme for 120 days.

Paul Van Deventer, president and CEO of association Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and co-chair of Meetings Mean Business, said: “We are concerned the recently signed U.S. executive order on immigration and refugees could have negative impacts on our global membership community and the meeting and event industry. MPI is lending its full support to the Meetings Mean Business Coalition and their efforts to monitor this issue and understand potential implications. We will unite with fellow coalition members to advocate for our industry, sharing updates with our members on how Meetings Mean Business is ‘reaffirming that it’s critical to strike the right balance between enhanced security and travel facilitation.’”

Elliott Ferguson, president and CEO, Destination DC, in Washington, said: “Policy is changing rapidly and it remains to be seen what the impact will be on the meetings and conventions industry”.

He said the U.S. Travel Association, responsible for advocating on behalf of the travel , was understood to be ‘working with the new administration on policy initiatives’.

He added: “Destination DC will continue, as always, to do everything in its power to work with meeting planners to facilitate a positive and successful experience in Washington, DC.”

Professional congress organisers are also keeping a watchful eye on developments.

Dan Rivlin, CEO Kenes Group, said: “The rules are changing by the hour. We had issues with dual citizenship clients who were alerted of a potential non-compliance to the new regulations - which were lifted hours later!  I believe discrimination of people based on their nationality or religion is wrong, and on the practical side, is likely to create more damage than good as well.

“I believe that if it is a temporary issue, no harm will be caused. However, if this ban was to be extended and remain in force, there is a high likelihood that international association would need to re-evaluate holding their meetings in the US, which is bad news for all of us in the industry.”

Bob Vaez, president at, blogged: ‘Holding an international conference in US is now risky business! We need our industry leaders at PCMA, MPI, ILEA and ASAE to aggressively lobby the White House to clarify the rules around the ban so we can limit the damage to the meetings and hospitality industry. If this chaos continues, I see this only helping Mexico Tourism and specially Canada to take advantage of the diversity and openness in Canada and lobby international conference organizers to host their conferences in Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa or Montreal.”

Meanwhile writing in the next edition of AMI Magazine, Martin Sirk, CEO of suppliers’ association ICCA, will argue: “Many associations will be tempted to select alternative destinations where their delegates won't be stigmatised or faced with barriers, or where public discourse is less strident, but I believe this thinking is counter-productive. We should instead recognise that our associations' US members are going to need the best of our bridge-building abilities as they fight to maintain their principles and their worldwide relationships.”

He says if Trump barred bona fide conference delegates from meetings hosted in the US, the international association community would makes its feelings on the matter ‘loud and clear’.

But adds “The world needs a connected, intellectually open USA, and associations have a vital role to play. This is not the time to turn away from holding international meetings in America.”

  • Tricia Harris of Lucid Meetings 21/03/2017

    Meeting with colleagues or clients in person can be critical to sustain a business relationship. However, when travel is not an option, you have to get creative. We’ve created an online guide to help called "Coping with travel restrictions: When meeting face-to-face matters, and what to do when you can’t”

    Check it out and let us know your thoughts!

    Tricia Harris
    Lucid Meetings

  • Matt Wilson of Fuse Events Limited 03/02/2017

    The effect of this executive order is already being felt. An event we are hosting in Arlington (3 miles from DC) in May, whilst still successful, has been hit by boycotts by academics and visa rejections for dual nationality delegates. Furthermore, clients we are working with are already shying away from using the USA as a destination whilst Trump is in power due to the administrations perceived instability.

    We're just one small agency among thousands, but on this anecdotal evidence Trump will certainly have a negative effect on incoming groups to the U.S.

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