Despite the fact that international travel to the U.S. is down 17 percent since 2001 overall, international attendance atand conventions has not declined, according to a new study commissioned by the Professional Convention Management Association. However, there is room for improvement.
The report, International Participation at Association Meetings and Conventions, finds that while most (53 percent) U.S.-based associations say there has been no change in international attendance between 2005 and 2000, more have actually seen an increase (29 percent) over that period than have seen a decrease (19 percent). Of those respondents that had held their 2006 conventions at the time of the survey, 51 percent saw no change compared to 2005, 29 percent saw an increase, and only 10 percent a decrease. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the levels of international attendance remain low.
Based on data culled from 2005 conventions and trade shows, 34 percent of PCMA members say that less than 2 percent of their attendees are international while 51 percent say it’s less than 5 percent. Just 14 percent say more than 25 percent of their attendance is international. On the exhibitor side, 57 percent say less than 2 percent of exhibitors are international while 72 percent say it’s less than 10 percent. Only 4 percent say it’s 25 percent or more.
“What we found out kind of surprised me, frankly,” says Deborah Breiter, PhD, department chair, Tourism, Events, Attractions, Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida, Orlando. “PCMA planner members seemed to be very domestically focused, they don’t seem to have much of an international focus even though the majority of them say their associations are international. Most of them said they were international, but they did very little to attract international attendees or exhibitors to their shows or conventions.”
The study – released this January -- also found that most PCMA members (51 percent) were “not at all familiar” with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which requires all travelers, including U.S. citizens, to and from the Caribbean, Central and South America, Mexico, and Canada to have a passport to enter or re-enter the United States. About 34 percent were “somewhat familiar” with WHTI. Also, 54 percent were “somewhat familiar” with Visa regulations, while 25 percent were “very familiar.”