The meetings industry is worth $907 billion (£562bn) to the US economy in direct and indirect spending, according to a comprehensive new report into the economic impact of meetings and events in the United States.
Direct spend was estimated at $263 billion with almost half of that sum - $120 billion - spent on production costs and venue hire.
It means meetings is the 10th biggest industry in the US, ahead of motor manufacturing, the film business, and amusements and gambling, directly employing 1.7 million people.
The study, by PricewaterhouseCoopers, was commissioned by 14 industry groups stung by government criticism of the meetings sector, including the American Hotel & Lodging Association, ASAE, Convention Industry Council, Destination Marketing Association International, Meeting Professionals International Foundation, Professional Convention Management Association and U.S. Travel Association. They will now use the report – called 'The Economic Significance of Meetings to the US Economy' – to lobby politicians on the importance of the industry.
The analysis shows there were 1.8 million events held in the US in 2009, with corporate business meetings accounting for 1.2 million (71 per cent) of the total, conventions 269,000 (15 per cent), incentives 66,000 (4 per cent) and trade shows 10,700 (1 per cent).
Hotels were overwhelmingly the venue of choice, hosting 1.5 million events, while convention centres hosted just seven per cent, or 130,000.
Some 205 million people took part in the events, almost all of them classified as ‘local’ or ‘domestic’. Only five million of the delegates were international.
More than 6,000 industry professionals – including 2,500 delegates – took part in the research, 11 per cent of the total surveyed. For the purposes of the study meetings had to be at least four hours long, attended by 10 people and held at a contracted venue.
Bruce MacMillan, president of Meeting Professionals International, said the benefits of face-to-face meetings had been proved beyond doubt.
“Meetings drive innovation. Why do we have a Silicon Valley? It’s about bringing people together, there’s no more powerful force of interaction.”
Plans are underway to use the same model to undertake an economic impact study of the UK meetings market, with a working party set up by the three main drivers for the project – MPI, InterContinental Hotels Group and Meetings & Incentive Travel magazine. The model is in partnership with the United Nations World Tourism Organization and will also be co-funded by the MPI Foundation and other sponsors.Pictured: Bruce MacMillan, MPI