As if sponsoring the largest tradeshow in the United States wasn't large enough, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) did a survey to find out why more people didn't come. The survey, which targeted international business travelers, indicated that visa difficulties were an obstacle for some.
Approximately 7,000 CES non-attendees living outside the U.S. were queried for the survey; 683 responded. Of those 683, 18 percent identified visa difficulties as the main reason for missing the tradeshow. The "visa difficulty" group only slightly edged out the procrastinators - 16 percent of respondents who didn't get their visa interviews done in time. Around 10 percent were denied a visa.
The 2004 International CES attracted 2,400 exhibitors and 130,000 attendees, 14 percent of whom were international.
"Potential tradeshow attendees from nations with emerging economies provide U.S. business owners with the greatest opportunities for business growth and development, yet are the most likely to be denied visas today," said CEA President Gary Shapiro, with no mention whatsoever of trifling security issues vexing the Departments of State on Homeland Security, where visas are processed. "In an already difficult economic environment, U.S. exhibition organizers and exhibitors are being routinely and materially harmed by the loss of international participation in these events."
In response, the visa how-to Web site administered by the State Department said, "Improved interagency and automated procedures have reduced delays and speeded up visa processing. The State Department's goal is visa delivery no more than 30 days from the time of application in most cases. Sometimes it can take less than that, and sometimes longer. If your name or a close variation is matched in a database indicating law enforcement concerns, the process will take several weeks longer to resolve."
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