The Exhibitions and Conferences Alliance is making change happen in the events industry and deserves an industry showcase article! I spoke directly with Tommy Goodwin from ECA about the organization and ongoing advocacy efforts. Many of the efforts of the ECA revolve around COVID era policies that are still in place and harming the industry, small businesses, and communities supported by the events industry. Tommy is a great resource for our industry. He is passionate, intelligent, and strategic in his efforts and the results speak for themselves. Let’s get into everything related to the Exhibitions and Conferences Alliance!

The Exhibitions and Conferences Alliance - Industry Showcase

Purpose and Members of ECA

To make it straight forward, let’s here directly from the ECA website about who they are:

Established in 2021, the Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance (ECA) is a coalition of leading professional, industry, and labor organizations that comprise the unified advocacy voice of the business events industry. The exhibitions, conferences, and trade shows delivered by ECA’s alliance partners and their members attract exhibitors, attendees, and buyers from around the world to conduct business in the U.S. In 2022, these events led to $138 billion in direct sales and supported 2.2 million jobs nationwide.

The purpose of the ECA is to give a voice to the exhibits and events industry. Our industry is very unique because it is one of the few remaining industries comprised of mostly small businesses. It is an industry where the free market is still alive and is not beholden to a handful of large corporations. This makes our industry fun, exciting, efficient, and innovative. However, it also means our industry in not represented in Congress. The ECA bridges the gap by bringing some of the largest industry professionals together to ensure fair legislation for our industry!


The ECA is comprised of many partners including some of the biggest names in the industry! The ESCA, EDPA, IAEE, IAVM, PCMA, SISO, TSLA, and UFI and the alliance partners of the organization. This group of organizations represents all aspects of the exhibits industry including producers, labor, transport, and distributors.

Accomplishments of the ECA

ecoSmart Sustainable Custom ExhibitsThe ECA participates in advocacy for legislation to benefit the exhibits industry and its stakeholders. Many accomplishments have been made in the past three years to help many industries. One bill in 2022, the Relief for Restaurants and other Hard Hit Small Businesses Act of 2022, helped many in the exhibits industry to continue to get financial assistance. In August 2023 legislation was brought forth to help address Visa delays which affects international events and travels. A quote by Vinnie Polito talks about this issue in detail:

“Unacceptable visa delays continue to hold back the industry’s otherwise remarkable rebound,” said Vinnie Polito, Society of Independent Show Organizers Chief Executive Officer and ECA Co-President. “From setting clear goals for interview wait times to introducing new modernized processes, the Visa Processing Improvement Act would improve visa operations at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world and help our international stakeholders get back to business in the U.S.”

As recently as March 2024, an additional $50 million dollars in funding was delegated to the State Department to reduce Visa wait times. ECA applauds the efforts in this article as a great start to reducing Visa wait times which greatly affect international trade shows. Additionally, modernizing the Visa system will be a main driver in reducing overall wait times. The ECA is accomplishing great things for a newly formed, three years old organization!

Looking to the Future

The ECA policy agenda for 2024 is focused heavily on Visa wait times. ECA’s alliance partners and board of directors have identified five key areas of focus for the year ahead:

  • Ensuring a favorable industry operating environment
  • Growing seamless international travel and commerce
  • Creating a welcoming environment for the industry in states and cities nationwide
  • Championing industry-led decarbonization efforts
  • Developing the industry’s future workforce

When it comes to public policy in 2024, the ECA’s objectives include the following 6 key points:

  • Restoring visa operations to pre-pandemic levels while modernizing visa processing
  • Supporting government policies to help attract and train the industry’s next generation workforce
  • Bringing back communicable disease coverage to event cancellation insurance
  • Increasing music licensing transparency and stopping anti-competitive behavior by rights holders
  • Promoting industry-led sustainability and decarbonization efforts that ensure the industry remains in control of its path to Net Zero
  • Amplifying efforts to raise awareness of the business events industry to our future talent pool

Based on the accomplishments of ECA thus far, we are excited to see the accomplishments that come in 2024 and the years to follow!

Tommy Goodwin – Vice President of ECA

In a recent TSNN article, Tommy Goodwin spoke to the latest on Visa wait times.

“Tommy Goodwin leads ECA’s advocacy and member engagement work on behalf of the interconnected ecosystem of exhibitors, show and event organizers, suppliers, venues and destinations that comprise the global business events landscape.”

In my interview with Tommy we discussed the importance of advocacy in the exhibits and events industry. Congress typically listens to the loudest voices pushing legislation. The ECA makes noise on behalf of our industry to get representatives engaged with issues facing many small businesses. What I really respect about the ECA and Tommy Goodwin is the focus on changing legislation that not only helps our industry, but also helps many other industries at the same time. We are a community with many stakeholders involved. If the exhibits industry suffers so do local restaurants, hotels, retailers, and local communities. The efforts by ECA also set the tone and precedent for other quality legislative efforts.

Wrap Up

As a veteran in the trade show industry, Creative Imaging Displays fully supports the ECA and their efforts. In my interview with Tommy Goodwin, I could see his passion and excitement for the advocacy movement for our industry. Additionally, Tommy is a great example of how industry professionals need to operate to make change happen. It is imperative for our industry to continue to support ECA and all of it’s efforts to improve the Exhibits and Conferences Industry. Finally, Check out their “Get Involved” page to see what you can do!