Global Economic Significance of Business Events

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Global Economic Significance of Business Events

By Rich Luna | Nov 1, 2018

What is the value of face-to-face meetings? Try more than US$1.03 trillion.

That’s the amount cited for the worldwide direct spend of the meeting and event industry and the power of face-to-face surpassed in 2017, according to the Global Economic Significance of Business Events.

The study from the Events Industry Council (EIC) and conducted by Oxford Economics is the first-ever comprehensive report on the impact of business events. The report was released at IMEX America, the biggest meeting and event industry trade show in the U.S., which this year attracted a record 13,000 participants and provided a US$19 million economic impact to the host city, Las Vegas.

“This has also been a landmark week for our industry,” said Ray Bloom, IMEX Group chairman. “The announcement at IMEX America that globally, business events generate over $1 trillion in direct spending, matching the consumer electronics sector in size, puts its economic contribution into clear perspective and places it among the world’s leading business markets. The EIC report showed the value of our sector globally. We know it’s more than that.”

The study shows that in 2017, more than 1.4 billion participants from more than 180 countries attended meetings and events, generating more than US$1.03 trillion in direct spending. The average amount spent per business event participant was $711, according to the report.

“The Global Economic Significance of Business Events offers a compelling snapshot of the broad reach, scope and strength of our industry,” said Karen Kotowski, CMP, CAE, CEO of the EIC. “The findings will help us tell a more complete story of how and why business events serve as a major economic generator.”

The full research report, to be released in early November, will include the total economic impact of business events, including jobs and GDP, as well as a ranking of the top 50 countries.

Aran Ryan, director of Oxford Economics, said the research was the first global analysis of the industry and tapped into various country-level studies to draw data. The study examined meetings from more than 15 countries that included 10 or more people who spent a minimum of four hours in a contracted venue. The countries represented a diverse group of regions, domestic and international travelers and national GDPs.

“This helps put the size of the industry into context,” he said. “It gave us a sense of the robust spending.”

The $1.03 trillion reflects the direct spending from planning, producing, attending and/or hosting business events that include meetings, conferences, conventions, exhibitions and incentive travel. As a commercial engine, it would rank the business events sector “far larger” than what is spent for consumer electronics in terms of size and scope, Ryan said.

North America had the highest spend at $381 billion in 2017, representing 37 percent of global business events direct spending, followed by Asia ($290.9 billion), Western Europe ($266 billion), Latin America/Caribbean ($33 billion), Africa ($23.4 billion), Central and Eastern Europe ($23.2 billion) and the Middle East ($1.8 billion).

When measured in terms of the number of business event participants, Asia is the largest market with 453.4 million, or 31.3 percent, in 2017, according to the report, followed by Western Europe (406 million) and North America (329.7 million).

The share of business events activity accounted for by the top 50 countries (96 percent of the global total) is similar to the 93 percent of global GDP accounted for by those same countries.

While the average spend was $742, the average in the U.S. was $1,156, according to the study, followed by Western Europe ($655) and Asia ($642).

Future aspects of the report will examine jobs in the meetings sector, Ryan said.

Tina Wehmeir, CMP, CAE, chair of the EIC, said IMEX America was the “ideal place to share the powerful effect business events have—economically, socially and culturally.”

“This research will be a critical tool in demonstrating why business events are key to growth and development in every corner of the world,” she said.

The research was the result of industry collaboration between the EIC and IMEX, Hilton, the PCMA Education Foundation and the MPI Foundation, which was the leading sponsor of the study.

To access the summary report, visit



Rich Luna

Rich Luna is Director of Publishing for MPI and Editor-in-chief of The Meeting Professional.