Tommy Goodwin, vice president, Government Affairs for the Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance, discusses the value and power of advocacy for the meetings industry.
Tommy Goodwin is vice president, Government Affairs for the Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance (ECA), an organization that was founded during the pandemic in February 2021. Since then they have been supporting the recovery and advancement of the business events industry, taking advocacy from Capitol Hill to states and cities across America.
ECA has spearheaded a number of programmes to help small businesses and key stakeholders across the industry within the US, which Goodwin explains. One of the areas they have focused on is ensuring the returning of international visitors, both attendees and exhibitors, to US events which is an important part of the industry. ECA were involved in discussions around country specific travel restrictions, as well as vaccine and testing requirements. In addition to this, they are also focusing on the numerous visa issues that certain countries are experiencing, which is impacting travel to the US. Goodwin explains how ECA have been working with government agencies to discuss various ways to help improve the processes now and into the future.
ECA and Goodwin have also been working to ensure the return of communicable disease coverage to event cancelation insurance, something that is currently unavailable in post-pandemic. Goodwin explains that post 9/11, insurers no longer provided terrorism insurance coverage, which led the US government to step in and create the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA). Explaining what TRIA involved, Goodwin notes that a similar approach would be beneficial to the meetings and events industry and as such ECA is working on a bipartisan level to develop a proposal which will target this issue.
One of the biggest issues facing the events industry is how we bring people together whilst also being conscious of the environmental impact, which Goodwin argues is one of the biggest issues facing the industry today. He notes a number of industry-led programmes and initiatives that are aiming to tackle sustainability and climate change issues such as Net Zero Carbon Events and the Events Industry Council’s Four Principles of Event Sustainability. For ECA, their goal is to not only support these initiatives but work with the policy-makers on a government level to ensure that legislation and regulations align with these goals, providing education where necessary.
Almost every industry has been experiencing workforce related issues since the pandemic and the events industry is no different, with Goodwin explaining what some of these challenges look like. He notes there the events industry is one where people arrive at their career either via an intentional university degree or organically and as such the pool of people that can come into the industry is wide and varied in skill and experience. Therefore, Goodwin explains, ECA wants to identify where the industry is excelling and the partnerships that they have in order to showcase this to policymakers, demonstrating its potential to be replicated and scaled to bring a future workforce into the industry. Goodwin notes the bills and laws which once defined these partnerships and educational funding for institutions have long expired, something ECA wants to revisit with bipartisan support, as they believe that the meetings and events industry is an exciting one with many career opportunities.
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