New research by the Events Industry Council (EIC) has confirmed that face-to-face meetings and events deliver substantial benefits to the U.S. economy by not only contributing $446 billion in GDP and $104 billion of federal, state and local taxes, but by supporting 5.9 million jobs.
During 2016, 1.9 million meetings were attended by 251 million delegates, enabling the U.S. meetings sector to support more direct jobs than the telecommunications and oil and gas industries. Of those 251 million delegates, six million came from outside the U.S. spending $38 billion. Whilst that only represents two percent of overall meeting attendees, their spend relates to eleven percent of meetings-related spending.
The EIC research estimates the impact of face-to-face meetings as an additional $1.60 – or 160 percent – in benefits for the U.S. economy.
When you think about it, that’s a lot of money
Even more when you consider that meeting organizers and hosts spent $48 billion on food and drink at meetings. Or that meetings generated 300 million room nights annually, representing nearly $50 billion of spending on accommodations. Or that travel for meetings made up 13.2 percent of all travel and tourism spending in the U.S.
Paul Van Deventer, president and CEO of Meeting Professionals International says that these numbers confirm that, whatever the industry, “investing in face-to-face meetings is a smart choice.” He also believes the EIC research shows how important it is that the meetings sector work with government.
“We’ve seen in the past that Visa policy has not always been conducive to international meeting participants being able to come and join in U.S. meetings. This research helps to…advocate for the importance of those international visitors in particular and to ensure that Visa policies are set up in such a way that international meeting attendees can come without being hindered.”
Positive impact on the U.S. economy aside, this same research also estimates the economic benefit of meetings to the organising organisation at $1.60 of benefit to the organization hosting the event per dollar spent - an ROI of 160 percent.
Bringing things up to date, the outlook for the U.S. meetings and events sector remains positive
Destinations such as Hawaii, Washington DC, New York and California’s wine region are particularly popular.
Whilst there’s little evidence that organizations are holding more meetings, neither are volumes declining. In North America, conferences and tradeshows account for nearly 25 percent and training meetings for 20 percent of all types of meeting.
There’s further good news for the sector with group size and average cost per attendee per day up between 3 - 5 percent across the region with hotel prices and air fares set to increase by 2.5 percent this year.
For all these positive vibes, the picture is not entirely rosy. The Trump administration’s travel ban has put some association meetings and incentive travel planners off coming to America, with Canada being the primary beneficiary. In February 2017, 6,500 Canadian academics signed a pledge not to attend international conferences in the U.S. for the duration of the ban.
What no known knows is how much this has cost the U.S. economy. The GBTA estimates that $185 million in business travel bookings were lost in the week following the President’s executive order blocking refugees and people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. By 2019, some reckon the ban will have left an $18 billion hole in U.S. tourism.
As Roger Dow, CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, which represents airlines, hotels and destination resorts puts it. “We’re really good at America being closed for terrorism and open for business.' What we need them to do is say that.”
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