Report: Meetings Bring More Than Money to Host Cities

A new report from Meetings Mean Business and Skift shows that along with money, meetings bring fresh ideas and inspiration to their host cities, which have long-term impacts on shaping their economies and industries.

Meetings are integral to associations and to host cities. Not only do they provide networking and learning opportunities for attendees, but they also bring in major revenue for the organization, as well as the destination, and drive innovation in host cities.

Those are just some of the takeaways found in a new report, “Defining Conventions as Urban Innovation and Economic Accelerators,” from Meetings Mean Business and Skift.

“Although the services provided by our industry often go unnoticed, they are a catalyst for economic growth,” stated the report. “They have the power to influence how a city takes shape, including who lives there, who works there, and who visits year-to-year. What’s more, they can determine what other industries flock to the region and whether long-term investment opportunities will succeed or fail.”

Still, the report highlights the need for more and better research, especially since measuring the long-term value of conferences is prone to challenges. For instance, it’s easy to measure the economic impact of a single event: Simply add up the revenue from hotel rooms, event venues, and restaurant meals during a conference. When the San Diego Tourism Authority did this, it found that in 2015, 23 percent of visitor traffic in the city was from 553,000 conference attendees who spent $620 million.

That’s pretty significant, but the report maintains that it’s more difficult to quantify the impact of, for example, “how a meeting at a conference led to a new medical research facility two years later in the event’s host destination.”

But there are examples of just that. “In Chicago, the tech, scientific, and engineering conferences helped spawn the creation of 1871, which is a tech incubator that now has hundreds of different organizations, big and small, and we worked on developing that in conjunction with World Business Chicago,” said Don Welsh, president and CEO of Destination Marketing Association International.

The report also shows that smart cities are carving out and capitalizing on their own niches—and pitching meeting planners on those specialized niches. For instance, Jacksonville, Florida, is an expert in aerospace, while Portland, Oregon, is mission-control for cleantech, and San Diego is a center for life sciences.

“Every city has traditionally sold themselves the same way, where everybody’s got a new convention center, everybody’s got a new hotel inventory, everybody’s got great restaurants, great parks, and 40 miles of biking paths,” said Melissa Riley, VP of convention sales and services at Destination DC, in the report. “Now we want to highlight to the meeting planner community and the business community the intellectual assets we have. … We’re trying to move beyond dates, rates, and space. We’re trying to get planners to understand that our asset base of expertise can help shape their content and redevelop their show as a whole.”

Cities are also creating “innovation districts to better connect their high-tech and creative industries, research institutions, cultural venues, and convention center districts,” according to the report.

The aim of these innovation districts is, in part, to create a better, more holistic experience for visiting attendees to mix with locals, share knowledge, and network more organically.

“[M]eetings and events help drive travel and tourism into communities and are often the lifeblood of visitor spending, jobs, and revenue,” said the report. “It is no surprise then that destination marketing organizations (DMOs) are using meetings to impact the communities around them.”


Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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