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| Written by Veronica Ferguson

Meetings Matter: The Impact of the Events Industry

Originally published on March 24, 2023. Updated on April 8, 2024.

Every year, M&IW joins the rest of our industry in celebrating Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID), an international day of advocacy created to highlight the value of the meetings and events industry. From business meetings to incentive travel, conferences to conventions, there’s no denying the impact that events have not only on organizations but on the people and communities that attend and participate.

Celebrated in 2024 on April 11, GMID is powered by the US Travel Association’s Meetings Mean Business Coalition. The theme for 2024 is #MeetingsMatter—because they do. Events and business travel increase travel spending, create countless jobs around the world, and boost the host business’ bottom line. And while virtual events were welcome—and necessary—during the pandemic, nothing is better than the face-to-face connections and benefits of in-person meetings.

Meetings Matter to the Economy

While the travel and events industries have not yet fully recovered from the pandemic, they still have a positive economic impact. In 2023, meetings and events in the US generated nearly $120 billion in travel spending, directly supporting 600,000 American jobs. Group business travel specifically has seen major growth, with demand approaching 2019 levels and expected to surpass that this fall.1

At the organizational level, 81% of executives consider business travel essential,2 primarily because in-person meetings are crucial to relationship development, which in turn fuels business growth. Tradeshows are especially effective for in-person networking; one study found that up to 20% of customers are found through tradeshows, with networking being the top reason nearly half of all vendors and prospectus attend.3

The benefits of in-person communication extend to all meetings and events, not just tradeshows. After all, a face-to-face request is 34 times more likely to succeed than an email.4 Virtual meetings can’t compete when it comes to building relationships and acquiring and retaining customers.

Meetings Matter to People

Now that we’re not limited to only virtual events and prerecorded webinars, everyone is more than ready to return to in-person events. Nearly 80% of business travelers prefer in-person events5 over virtual because they allow for deeper connections, timely and in-depth conversations, and more complex strategic thinking. The bonds and empathy that are established in person can’t be replicated over phone or even video.

But how an in-person event is held is just as important as the fact that it is in person. Attendees want to be engaged during sessions and to have ample time to network with each other. They also want venues with windows and natural light or even the entire event to be outdoors! The more that can be done to keep attendees engaged and satisfied, the more likely they’ll be to attend other events—and the faster the industry will return to pre-pandemic levels.

Meetings Matter to Communities

Some of the community benefits of meetings may be obvious. For example, locals in popular event destination will benefit from consistent employment opportunities, and hosting an event in the same town as the company headquarters directly supports local businesses (in addition to the economic and environmental benefits of reduced shipping and transportation). Some events, such as charity galas, are even held for the express purpose of supporting the local community.

But there are other ways for events to make an impact that are less obvious. A percentage of registration fees can be donated to a local charity or nonprofit, for example, or a giveback element can be included in the event agenda, such as a food drive or a group volunteering excursion. Leftover food can also be donated to local food banks or charities. Another less tangible impact is when a large public event is held in an unconventional destination, it can help improve the destination’s reputation or even put it on the industry’s radar.6

Spread the Word

This Global Meetings Industry Day, we invite you to share your own story about why meetings matter. Post on social media using #MeetingsMatter and #GMID2024, attend one of the many events being held, or reach out to your local elected officials to ask what they’re doing to help bring events to your area.

We are proud to be part of such an impactful and inspiring industry. Happy Global Meetings Industry Day!


Sources

1 US Travel Association, 2024

2 US Travel Association, 2023

3 Apollo Technical, 2023

4 Harvard Business Review, 2017

5 The Washington Post

6 Event Academy, 2020