In helpingDestination DC land the 2018 World Gas Conference, “I went out of my way to answer concerns people had. I emphasized that we are, in fact, open for business.” —Claire Etches, Destination DC
national attendees withvisa questions. In 2011, the 150,000-attendee InternationalCESdrew 31,000
international participants—more than1,300of them fromChina. Because the Chinesemarket is so important,CEAmaintains aBei- jing office and also brings on temporary staff in the months lead- ing up to the show to help local Chinese prepare for their visa interviews. The Radiological Society of North Amer-
ica (RSNA), meanwhile, draws nearly 10,000 international attendees to its Scientific Assem- bly and Annual Meeting in Chicago. In 2010, there were 633 Chinese attendees and 455 Brazilian attendees, according to RobertHope, RSNA’s director of housing, registration, and travel services. Start- ing about six months before the show, an RSNA staffer begins fielding visa questions and sending official invitation letters to international attendees, which can help applicants show they have a legitimate reason for a visa request. (See “International Relations,” p. 65.) RSNA sends about 2,000 suchinvitations every year, each with the signature of the association’s execu- tive director.
The Beijing embassy’s Ramsey as well as meeting profes- CERTIFICATION MADE POSSIBLE
sionals agree that the single-most important advice planners can pass on to attendees is to begin the visa process early. “Encour- age your attendees to book interviewappointments just as soon as they know they might need to travel,” Ramsey said. To that end, CES’s website states: “Wait times for a visa interview can be several weeks or more in many countries, especially during peak travel periods.With this in mind, we strongly urge you to place your request for a letter of invitation to attend the 2012 International CES as soon as possible.” Reaching out directly to international registrants and poten-
tial attendees can also negate concerns and encourage atten- dance. “Often,” said DestinationDC’s Etches, “their perception is worse than reality.” In truth, said Philippe Fournier, president of the International
Association of Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO), what attendees face in the United States is not much different from what they face anywhere else. “We do have this constraint in many countries, this is not specific to the United States,” Fournier said. “There was a timewhere lots of peo- ple thought, ‘Oh God, going to the States, what a pain.’ This has changed now, because it is the same everywhere.” Etches points to Washington, D.C.’s
CEIR’s report “The Economic Impact of International Non-Participation in the Exhibition Industry Due to US Visa Issues”: http://bit.ly/CEIR-visa-report
U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Travel and Tourism Industries: http://tinet.ita.doc.gov
U.S. Department of State Business Visa Center: http://1.usa.gov/business-visa-center
successful bid to host the 2018World Gas Conference, a major international event, as an example of progress. Sheworked on the year-long campaign to get the meeting, and said an important aspect of Destina- tion DC’s pitch was addressing the visa issue. “I went out of my way to explain the process and answer concerns people had,” Etches said. “I emphasized over and over thatweare, in fact, open for business, and it’s not as difficult as you might think.”
Molly Brennan is a freelance writer and editor based in Highland Park, Ill.
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