U.S. Travel, ASAE Fly-ins Put Travel, Association Professionals Face-to-face with Congressional Decision-makers

March 17, 2014

Each year, the U.S. Travel Association and the American Society of Association Executives sponsor separate fly-ins to Washington, D.C., during which hundreds of travel and association professionals meet face-to-face with legislators on Capitol Hill to discuss issues important to them.

Dubbed “Destination Capitol Hill”, U.S. Travel held its second annual fly-in Feb. 24-27, and nearly 300 travel professionals had 275 meetings with members of Congress.

Among the fly-in participants were several convention and visitors bureau executives, including Steve Moore, president and CEO of Visit Phoenix.

“This past visit, our delegation from Arizona was able to land yet another supporter (Congressman Ron Barber) for the JOLT Act legislation moving through Congress that would greatly enhance visitation to the U.S.,” Moore said.

He added, “Ironically, these fly-ins succeed because we meet face-to-face with our delegation to effectively discuss issues. It simply is not as effective over the phone or the Internet.”

The JOLT Act is bipartisan legislation that would leverage the benefits of inbound international travel to the United States to increase economic growth, create more jobs, generate additional tax revenue and boost U.S. exports. In short, the act is designed to make it easier for international travelers to visit the U.S.

Michael Jacobson, manager of Grassroots and PAC for U.S. Travel, said the JOLT Act was just one of several issues that were discussed with Congress members during the fly-in.

“When it comes from a local voice, it’s much more powerful,” he added. USTA members and non-members both were invited to take part. “The best material to come out of the fly-ins are personal stories, like how the JOLT Act can help local businesses.”

Jacobson said the fly-in also was an opportunity for participants to talk about the value of meetings and conventions. “Overall, the whole concept of face-to-face meetings and trade shows has huge economic value,” he added.

David Audrain, who has been at the top post of several trade show companies and currently runs Exposition Development Company, also took part in the U.S. Travel fly-in.

“I believe very strongly that we as an industry need to ensure that our legislators understand the value of both the travel and tourism industry, and the exhibition and events industry. And we need to keep in front of them on a regular basis,” Audrain said.

He added, “The expansion of the Visa Waiver Program and the continued improvement of the visa application process are essential to the growth of international participation and attendance at our shows here in the U.S.”

ASAE’s fly-in, dubbed “American Associations Day”, is on tap next week and will include approximately 150 association executives, who will visit about 250 congressional offices, according to ASAE’s director of public policy, Chris Vest.

“Fly-ins are a good opportunity to enhance awareness and understanding of whatever sector you represent,” Vest said. “In our case, it’s an opportunity to talk about what impacts associations.”

During the congressional visits, ASAE fly-in participants plan to discuss issues such as tax reform, allowing federal employees to attend private meetings and nonprofit governance.

“We want to continue to educate legislative offices about why it’s important for government employees to attend meetings and trade shows,” Vest said. “… That’s a message we want to continue to reinforce on the Hill.”

In order to negotiate the hectic schedules and have up-to-the-minute news and any meeting changes made available at fly-in participants’ fingertips, both ASAE and U.S. Travel made mobile apps for their events.

On ASAE’s app, there are features such as the schedule of events, speaker bios, talking points and the  Congressional directory.

“We wanted to take advantage of mobile tech to improve the opportunity for our members to have a conversation with people on the Hill,” Vest said.

U.S. Travel’s app also helped attendees get through the busy schedule and talking points. “Our attendees appreciated it as well,” he added.

Wondering if all this effort to fly everyone in for a crazy few days of running around Capitol Hill is worth it? Jacobson said this year’s fly-in succeeded in signing on 13 more co-sponsors for the JOLT Act, giving it even more of a chance to pass successfully when it comes up for vote.

For more information on U.S. Travel's fly-in, please visit HERE.

For more information on ASAE’s upcoming fly-in, please visit HERE.

Want to get involved in having a voice about the value of meetings and conventions? Check out http://www.meetingsmeanbusiness.com/.

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