Industry Leaders Call for Return of MICE, Business Travel

A coalition of business and travel community leaders delivered an evidence-based message Wednesday, September 15: Travel for professional meetings, exhibitions and events can safely resume and doing so will accelerate America’s economic and jobs recovery.

At the National Press Club, representatives of the Let’s Meet There Coalition, the U.S. Travel Association and the Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance, joined by CLEAR, drew a spotlight to the distinctions of professional in-person gatherings from other “large gatherings,” and cited dozens of events and exhibitions that have been safely conducted in recent months, along with tools and practices to help these events continue to move forward.

The return of the business travel sector—which has lagged in its recovery—was highlighted as crucial to a broader recovery of the U.S. economy.

Tourism Economics highlighted the value of domestic business travel to the U.S. economy, which generated $270 billion in direct travel spending supporting 4 million U.S. jobs in 2019. That said, spending by business travelers declined by 68 percent last year and is projected to take three years to rebuild to pre-pandemic levels without focused efforts to help the sector rebound. 

Further, the travel industry was disproportionately impacted by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 65 percent of all jobs lost in 2020 supported by travel. Business travel and meetings segments suffered significant declines as travel for professional events, conferences and trade shows declined by almost 80 percent last year, resulting in a $97 billion loss in spending.

Tourism Economics also shared new analysis identifying the relationship between business travel and corporate performance for 14 industries over the past 26 years. The econometric analysis found that businesses experience an average gain of $1.60 in corporate profits for each dollar invested in business travel. Corporate performance is dependent on business travel as a critical means to connect with clients, build relationships and develop ideas, U.S Travel summarized.

Professional meetings and exhibitions conducted under controlled environments allow for maximum health and safety measures to protect participants, according to analysis by Ohio State University healthcare scientists. Recent independent studies from the Mayo ClinicHarvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the U.S. Department of Defense also corroborate the safety of air travel today.

Scientific modeling by the Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance and Epistemix has shown in-person professional meetings and events pose a near-zero (0.001 percent) risk of COVID-19 transmission to attendees—even for large events, particularly given the layered approach to mitigation strategies. A 4x risk reduction is achieved through a layered approach of masks, vaccinations, and/or requiring a negative test. Further, Epistemix modeling analysis found that events have not been shown to be a major driver of case counts, largely due to the fact that in-person events (exhibitors and attendees) have higher vaccination rates (roughly 80 percent) than the overall population.

This aligns with additional findings that business travelers (and meeting organizers) are more likely than the general population to be vaccinated. According to Destination Analysts, 78 percent of Americans who have traveled for business in the last two years have been vaccinated, compared to 72 percent of American travelers overall.

In addition, tools such as the CLEAR Health Pass were highlighted as a way for event attendees and employees to upload and verify their health status at professional events. CLEAR's Health Pass is a free, mobile experience on the CLEAR app, which securely connects a person's verified identity to their proof of vaccination and test results to reduce public health risk.

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