The Commerce Department will bring “all tools to the table” to help overcome obstacles that remain to the normal resumption of business travel, both domestically and from abroad, according to Don Graves, deputy secretary of commerce, addressing a delegation of 11 travel industry leaders at a roundtable meeting. Discussion topics ranged from the reentry of urban office workers and its correlation to the restart of business travel to the distinctive differences of professionally produced meetings and events, as well as opportunities to attract global meetings, conventions and exhibitions to the US. Roger Dow, CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, which led the delegation, said the industry “appreciates the focus of the government on rebuilding business and professional travel and their commitment to restoring this sector of the U.S. economy and workforce.” Total business travel, according to U.S. Travel, remained at just 47% of 2019 levels in 2021 — and group meetings and events were at only 36% of 2019 levels. Based on the latest U.S Travel forecast, business travel recovery is not expected until 2024. Among policies that U.S. Travel and its Meetings Mean Business Coalition recommends are:
  • the creation of temporary tax incentives to encourage business travel and spending on entertainment services;
  • the creation of a partnership with US destinations and venues to help secure high-value international meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE);
  • the repeal of the pre-departure testing requirement for all fully vaccinated inbound international arrivals;
  • additional H-2B, J-1 and other temporary work visas available to meet seasonal workforce needs, among others; and
  • restoring visa services and taking steps to modernize the visa process — including by waiving interviews for low-risk renewals, allowing videoconferencing and/or offering group visa processing.
Among the participants in the roundtable were representatives from several destination management organizations, American Airlines and the flight attendants’ union.

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