Meetings and events represent big business, and the latest research into the sector shows just how strong the impact of meetings spending is on the U.S. economy.

The recently released Economic Significance of Meetings to the U.S. Economy report, which was prepared by Oxford Economics and the Events Industry Council, used a variety of economic data and information from about 9,000 domestic business travelers to figure out the size and scope of the impacts meetings had on the U.S. economy in 2016.

Meeting planning and production accounted for 51 percent of direct spending overall, while travel spending totaled 37 percent, followed by other direct spending from exhibitors and others. Costs have increased for meeting planners in recent years, and the beneficiaries are businesses and governments in venues across a city.

“Our report illustrates that the meetings and events industry continues to grow across all segments as it contributes hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue to the U.S. economy and supports 5.9 million jobs,” said Adam Sacks, founder and president of Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics company. “Notably in 2016, meetings generated $325 billion of direct spending and $845 billion in business sales. These numbers represent a contribution of $446 billion in GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and $104 billion of federal, state and local taxes. The total tax impact per household was $879 per U.S. household.”

The data, of course, do not reflect the post-election international travel slowdown to the U.S. that has worried travel companies and policy groups alike.

Here are four takeaways from the report on the importance of meetings to the U.S. economy.

Meetings Spending Has Accelerated

Meetings Impact (in millions)
2009201220162009 to 2016 Growth
Total Meetings1.791.851.895.40%
Participants204.7229.1251.222.70%
Direct Spending$263,444.00$273,076$325,04523.40%

A breakdown of the growth in meetings since the Great Recession shows that while the overall number of meetings has increased modestly, spending has surged from 2009 to 2016,

Of these meetings, 43.4 percent were hosted by corporations while 34.3 percent were held by an association or membership group.

Food and Beverage Drives Costs for Planners

Gross Meeting Production Expenditures by Category
Food and Beverage29%
AV and Staging Services14%
Venue Rental10%
Transportation7%
Production Services6%
Administration5%

Meeting production accounted for just over half of direct spending (51 percent), with travel spending lagging behind at 37 percent. Food and beverage proved costliest for planners in 2016, followed by staging services and venue rental. Planners will likely look to become more efficient when sourcing the food and drink for events, but costs have been rising for years.

Corporate Meetings Spend the Most

Direct Spending by Meeting Type
Corporate and Business Meetings55%
Conventions, Conferences, and Congresses18%
Trade Shows16%
Incentive Meetings7%
Others4%

Corporate and business meetings accounted for more than half of the total meetings spending in 2016, trailed by conventions and trade shows.

Corporate meetings dominated hotel room nights, as well, with 44 percent of 300 million total rooms booked; trade shows contributed 23 percent while conventions accounted for 20 percent. Hotel rooms booked in conjunction with meetings accounted for a quarter of total U.S. hotel room nights in 2016.

International Travelers Are a CASH COW

Meetings Direct Spending by Participants
Domestic Overnight69%
Domestic Day16%
International12%
Local4%

While domestic travelers dominate the overall meeting spend, international travelers spend the most. The average international attendee spent $6,207, compared to $2,513 for the average domestic overnight attendee and just $1,294 for the average attendee.

You can read the full report below.

Download (PDF, 628KB)

Photo Credit: Meetings and events generate tax dollars and spending for destination cities. International travelers tend to spend the most, although they still make up just a fraction of those who attend events in the U.S. allthingsopen / Flickr