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US View| Exhibition World A bill signed into law on 4 March by President Obama is aimed at boosting international business and leisure travel to the United States. The Travel Promotion Act calls for creating an 11- member board to develop and implement a global marketing campaign and also educate international travellers about the visa application process. Unlike many other nations, the United States never had a national travel promotion board. The new law aims to reverse the downward slide of global travel to the States. In 2009, the US drew 2.4 million fewer visitors from overseas than in 2000, a hit to the US economy of roughly $ 509bn in total spending and $ 32bn in direct tax receipts, according to the US Travel Association ( USTA), which lobbied for passage of the legislation. Oxford Economics, a UK- based consulting firm, estimates the initiative could draw nearly 1.6 million new visitors each year to the US and generate 40,000 jobs. Trade shows held in January showed signs of good growth in attendance but lagged in net square feet and exhibitor counts, according to the TSE Dashboard of Monthly Trade Show Metrics, released 1 March. Based on the 18 major shows held in January and surveyed by TSE, attendance grew 4.2 per cent to a total of 571,236 participants. However, the benchmark for exhibit space slid 14.9 per cent to 6,738,625 nsf and exhibitors fell 5.3 per cent to 17,609. However, there are continuing questions about whether attendance growth is sustainable. Joblessness is still a major obstacle to a full recovery in both the economy and exhibition industry. The legendary COMDEX will make a comeback this fall as a virtual trade show produced by Everything Channel, a United Business Media company. COMDEX was known to draw up to 200,000 attendees and 2,300 exhibitors in its heyday. At the height of Washington's February blizzard, we saw an example of the potential of social media and the tech- savvy trade show industry: A group of snowbound attendees threw together an impromptu conference to replace the event that had been cancelled. When weather forced the American Society of Association Executives ( ASAE) and The Center for Association Leadership to pull the plug on its 2010 Technology Conference & Expo, a cadre of about 75 attendees and exhibitors holed up at the Renaissance Washington in downtown DC and refused to surrender to the elements. The result was UNTECH10, an ad hoc conference- by- committee that provided a forum for presentations and discussions for the attendees and online participants. The live and virtual components were up and running literally within hours of the idea being born, and were accessible through a show website that hummed with the Tweets, webinars and give- and- take that are the hallmarks of event- related social media. UNTECH10 was no virtual trade show. It lacked high- visibility sponsors and a digital exhibit hall, but the content webcast by Peach New Media included a sizable chunk of what would have been discussed at the ASAE event had Mother Nature not interfered. The idea that a physical show that is forced to cancel can be instantly reborn in a digital format is a new frontier for organisers, exhibitors and attendees. By Darlene Gudea, president, Trade Show Executive Media Group. US news round 10| April 2010| THE MAGAZINE FOR THE GLOBAL EXHIBITION COMMUNITY WWW. EXHIBITION- WORLD. NET