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Events Industry Council: Business meetings prove resilient and face-to-face interaction is paramount

New research study in collaboration with Oxford Economics measures the global economic significance of business events.

The Events Industry Council (EIC) in partnership with Oxford Economics, released findings from its 2023 Global Economic Significance of Business Events study, which measures the full scope and economic significance of the $1.6 trillion USD global business events industry. For the first-time, EIC and Oxford Economics measured the critical role business events serve in areas like knowledge sharing, innovation and employee engagement – critical impacts that go well beyond direct event spending.

Oxford Economics analysed the economic significance of business events during 2019 to establish the full scope and economic impacts of the sector before the COVID-19 pandemic, with these key findings:

  • Total Participants: 1.6B
  • Direct Spending: $1.2T
  • Total Business Sales: $2.8T
  • Total Jobs: 27.5M
  • Contribution to Global GDP: $1.6T

The extensive research analysis in the latest study across 50 countries includes the important, and often overlooked, “catalytic” effects or wide-reaching benefits of business events hosted within destinations. A 2022 global survey of over 1,600 meeting professionals, exhibitors and venues reveal relationship-building, worker collaboration and business development are the most difficult outcomes to replace without meetings and events. The survey also found:

Key Findings:

  • Event organisers ranked relationship management, awareness and new customers as the most important ways they measure the catalytic impacts of business events.
  • 67% view building relationships through face-to-face interaction as most difficult to replace.
  • As much as 22% of new customers are generated through in-person events.
  • The reduction of business events due to COVID-19 led to significant loss of innovation, with 65% reporting a reduction in research and development prioritisation.
  • Organisers believe an average of 44% of revenues would be lost without hosting in-person events.

“Business events is a $1.6 USD trillion industry, with a GDP larger than many global economies. The economic significance of the global business events industry is immense, and so are its broader impacts,” said Amy Calvert, Events Industry Council CEO. “Events are a catalyst for meaningful change. Across industry sectors, organisations and individuals all gain in ways that are fundamental to advancement, innovation and adaptation to a changing world. The way we understand, measure and communicate the importance of business events is vital to showcasing its overall value.”

Global Business Events are Recovering from COVID-19 Impact

In 2022, global business events recovered solidly at about 80% of pre-pandemic levels. The Middle East, North America, and Central and Eastern Europe have led the recovery, reaching spending levels in 2022 that approached 2019 levels, lifted in part by an earlier recovery of travel and normalization of pandemic-related risks.

While Asia, Western Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean have generally experienced a slower pace of recovery, these regions are expected to experience some of the strongest growth of any of the global regions. Adjusted for inflation, global event spending is forecast to approach 2019 levels by 2025.

“The industry has made significant strides to recover losses. Two-thirds of global direct business event spending was lost in 2020. The three-year cumulative lost sales total $1.9 trillion USD,” said Adam Sacks, president of Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics company. “When we embarked on this study, we knew getting a total picture of the global business events sector was critical for EIC’s advocacy efforts on behalf of its global membership. Now we have the data to show that the business events total GDP impact would rank as 13th largest global economy and recovery is well underway. The economic implications are massive.”

The Value Proposition of Events is Evolving

The study, released this week, also illuminates how the value proposition of events is evolving. Event organisers can anticipate that building culture and engagement, supporting environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) objectives, advancing the business of the organisation and knowledge-sharing are higher priorities for event organisers in the future. The study also found:

  • Business events will be increasingly important in building culture and engagement (41%) and will be used more to advance growth of individual employees (36%).
  • Over time, many events are anticipated to adopt hybrid formats, as 40% of respondents suggest.
  • While the size of business meetings or events is expected to decline in the short term (48% of respondents), only 10% agree this will be a long-term shift.

“Our study supports a better understanding of both the economic significance and larger impacts of in-person event experiences, looking forward from COVID-19 disruptions,” added Calvert. “Our comprehensive research and global events barometer forecasting model with Oxford Economics reveal the industry’s substantial value drivers. We know business events offer irreplaceable benefits like knowledge sharing, research collaboration and human capital development. These findings not only help industry professionals make more informed and effective decisions, but also deepen our relevance and connection with global society.”

Research Funders: ADMEI, AHLA, ASAE, Caesars Entertainment, Fairmont, Freeman, IACC, IAEE, IMEX Group, Los Angeles Tourism, Maritz Global Events, MCI, MGM, MPI, Northstar, New York City Tourism + Conventions, Omni Hotels & Resorts, PCMA, RCMA, SISO, SITE, and U.S. Travel Association.

EIC Advocacy and Research Committee:

  • Cathy Breden, CMP, CAE, International Association of Exhibitions and Events, Center for Exhibition Industry Research
  • Martin Boyle, The International Association of Professional Congress Organisers
  • Nancy Drapeau, IPC, Center for Exhibition Industry Research
  • Jennifer Glynn, CIS, Society for Incentive Travel Excellence
  • Senthil Gopinath, International Congress and Convention Association
  • Stephanie Harris, The Incentive Research Foundation
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