Arguably a top deterrent for potential attendees to register for meetings is the hassle associated with travel. “Our roads and airports are antiquated,” laments Dominguez. President Trump won’t eliminate the long lines at big-city airports, but his stated goal to pour billions, if not trillions, into infrastructure should help. Given the bipartisan agreement about Dominguez’s assessment (recall former Vice President Joe Biden said New York’s LaGuardia Airport feels like it’s “in some third-world country,”) legislation to encourage improvements may gain traction in Congress. It’s generally agreed that improvements to airports and roads would increase tourism, both on the leisure and meetings sides.
Trump’s practical ideas about infrastructure improvements may be drowned out by rhetoric targeting certain groups that may no longer feel welcome in this country. Trump has already issued executive orders to build a wall at the Mexico border and to bar refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The courts and government budgets will determine the ultimate outcome for both, but the actions raised fears held prior to the election. “If he goes down the path of tightening our borders and getting more restrictive, it undermines a lot of the great work done by the Obama administration,” Paul Van Deventer, president and CEO of MPI and co-chair of Meetings Mean Business Coalition, warned before Trump’s inauguration. Van Deventer points to an emotional—and intangible—side of tourism that could be swayed elsewhere depending on how the administration plays out. Adds Dominguez on Trump: “The worst case is he can’t get anything done and he offends everyone.”
Even the best ideas are vulnerable to Washington gridlock. It goes without saying that Trump and the Republican-led House and Senate must find a way to work with Democrats to accomplish anything over the next four years. And when you tack on the major money needed to make necessary infrastructure improvements, this may be an uphill battle. “I don’t know if he can put together a multitrillion-dollar infrastructure plan, but if he does, that clearly benefits all of us,” says Van Deventer. As for the border situation, it’s hard to predict at this point.