Report: How the Meetings Space is Evolving Over Time

A new report, based on historic data from the International Congress and Convention Association, finds that meetings are generally getting smaller, but there are a lot more of them.

In 2013, the International Congress and Convention Association released a report highlighting five decades of consistent growth for the global meetings industry, comparing the event industry of 1963 to that of 2013.

Five years later, the association is revamping the report with new findings, comparing the last five years with the first five years of ICCA’s history—and the growth trends, according to data culled from the ICCA Association Database, are changing in multiple ways. By ICCA’s criteria, an international association meeting is one that occurs regularly, includes at least 50 participants, and rotates among international destinations. Among the trends spotted, according to the report:

Geographic shifts. Over the past five years, the most popular regions have changed; while Europe remains the most popular international market for meetings, its overall share of the market has declined. The largest individual cities were also shifting, with Barcelona becoming less popular and London more popular. The U.S., however, remains the most popular nation by sheer number of meetings, as it was when ICCA first started tracking data.

More meetings, but smaller. The report also found that, compared to 50 years prior, the 2013 to 2017 period saw a 66 percent decline in the average number of participants per meeting, to an average of 409 participants. But just because meetings were smaller doesn’t mean that participation is down; much the opposite. There are simply more meetings—65,182 between 2013 and 2017—and the report noted that the total number of overall participants in meetings was increasing, including in the U.S., where an estimated 2 million people took part in more than 5,000 meetings between 2013 and 2017. Speaking of things that are smaller—compared to the 1960s, the average meeting is more than two days shorter than it was back then, with current meetings averaging 3.65 days.

Rotating regionally, not globally. The report also notes that in the 1960s, 77.4 percent of meetings would move to cities around the world. Nowadays, the trend is shifting to more regional jumps, sticking to a specific geographic area, such as Europe or North America, though plenty of events still rotate globally.

The conference center is losing ground to the university. One interesting finding from the report is that many event planners are moving away from hosting events at convention centers. The 2013 version of the study found that hotels were picking up the slack, but the latest study found that the trend was reversing, with hotels also falling. The convention center is still losing ground, so what’s taking its place? Per the study: “This venue type has been overtaken by the universities.” Universities have shown a sharp increase in the past 15 years, becoming the second-most popular venue type for international association meetings.

In a news release, ICCA President Nina Freysen-Pretorius noted that the report highlighted the constant nature of change in the meetings industry.

“The results of our 55-year advocacy report demonstrate how new avenues of possibility are opening up for our industry with this new phase of growth,” she said. “To ensure our industry’s continued longevity, we must adapt to any upcoming challenges that rapid societal developments will bring.”

(coffeekai/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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