Meeting Mentor Magazine

May 2024

Global Event Industry Tops $1.6 Trillion

A new EIC study found that, while the $1.6 trillion USD global events industry is indeed impressive, there’s a lot more to the full story than the traditional direct event spending metrics.

You knew that the global events industry was a big one, but did you know it comes to $1.6 trillion USD? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, according to a new study conducted by the Events Industry Council in partnership with Oxford Economics.

This study, the 2023 Global Economic Significance of Business Events, for the first time measured the role business events play in vital economic indicators that fall outside the boundaries of direct event spending — from knowledge sharing and innovation to employee engagement. And they found that that $1.6 trillion USD worth of the global events industry does in fact extend far beyond direct spend on hotels, meeting venues, AV and on-site food and beverage.

To start, Oxford Economics looked at the size and scope of the global events industry in 2019, just pre-pandemic. And it was a monster: the pre-COVID global events industry included 1.6 billion participants across 180 countries, generated direct spend of $1.2 trillion and total business sales of $2.8 trillion (a 9.1% increase over 2017, the prior year reported by the EIC), and provided 27.5 million total jobs. Based on an average spend per participant of $707, the researchers concluded the global industry contributed $1.6 trillion to the global GDP.

COVID-19 came with a huge cost, of course. When in-person events ceased, the global economy lost $1.9 trillion from 2020 to 2022. In 2022, the industry came back, but still was not at full force. The study found spending was still down about 20% over 2019, even with an increase of almost 80% in direct spending on business events in 2022 — led by the Middle East, North America, and Central and Eastern Europe.

“The industry has made significant strides to recover losses,” said Adam Sacks, President of Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics company. “Two-thirds of global direct business event spending was lost in 2020. The three-year cumulative lost sales total $1.9 trillion USD.” He added, “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.”

Amy Calvert, Events Industry Council CEO, agreed. “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,” she said. “Events are a catalyst for meaningful change. Across industry sectors, organizations 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.”

Beyond Before and After

The study also found that the global events industry has changed in other ways over the past few years. One finding was that events aren’t just about knowledge sharing now. In fact, 41% said business events will be increasingly important in building culture and engagement, and 36% believed events will be increasingly used to advance individual employee growth.

And those changes will have what the report referred to as “catalytic” effects that go far beyond just what the industry provides to the global GDP. A global survey of more than 1,600 meeting professionals, exhibitors and venues in 2022 found that face-to-face meetings and events are crucial to maintaining relationship-building, worker collaboration and business development.

Other findings of the study:

  • Event organizers said relationship management, awareness and new customers are their top indicators for measuring the catalytic impacts of business events.
  • Building relationships through face-to-face interaction was most difficult to replace, said 67%. Forty-one percent agreed that events will be increasingly important in building culture and engagement moving forward. Another 23% said it was hard to replace worker collaboration and business development without face-to-face events. Thirty-six percent said events will be used more to advance growth of individual employees in the future.
  • The loss of revenues when organizers are unable to host in-person events is significant, said 44%. Another 65% said that the COVID-19 shutdowns of in-person events let to a significant loss of innovation, including a reduction in research and development prioritization.
  • New customer generation also is a key benefit to in-person events, with up to 22% of new customers being acquired through face-to-face interactions.
  • While 48% of those surveyed said they expect the size of meetings and events to decline in the short term, only 10% think this will be a lasting trend.

View the executive summary or purchase the full report on the EIC website.



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ConferenceDirect is a global meetings solutions company offering site selection/contract negotiation, conference management, housing & registration services, mobile app technology and strategic meetings management solutions. It provides expertise to 4,400+ associations, corporations, and sporting authorities through our 400+ global associates.

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