The American meetings and events industry directly and indirectly supports 6.3 million jobs and generates almost $1 trillion a year in direct, indirect and induced spending. The industry’s direct $106 billion contribution to the U.S. GDP is greater than the amount generated by auto manufacturing ($78 billion), performing arts/spectator sports/museums ($71 billion), and information and data processing services ($76 billion). If indirect and induced spending numbers are included, meeting and event production’s total annual contribution to the GDP is $458 billion.
The industry directly employs 1.7 million people, which is more than many domestic industries, including broadcasting and telecommunications (1.3 million), truck and rail transportation (1.5 million), and computer systems design and related services (1.4 million). Meeting and event production supports another 4.6 million jobs in other fields, most prominently in tourism-related industries such as air, urban transit, recreation, entertainment and retail, where the meetings industry directly supports 1.1 million total jobs. Meeting production also helps employ large numbers of people working in the accommodation (334,000), and food and beverage (478,000) industries.
The findings are part of a new study, “The Economic Significance of Meetings to the U.S. Economy,” conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers and commissioned by an alliance of 15 travel, meeting and hospitality organizations, including the Convention Industry Council, American Society of Association Executives, American Hotel & Lodging Association, Meeting Professionals International Foundation, International Special Events Society, Society of Incentive Travel Executives, Professional Convention Management Association/Education Foundation and the U.S. Travel Association. When meetings, incentives and events came under attack in 2008 and 2009, these organizations united under the Keep America Meeting/Meetings Mean Business banner to prove the value of meetings, and raise awareness of how the industry contributes to the economy and creates jobs.
The study found that 1.8 million meetings and events take place annually in the United States, attracting approximately 205 million participants. The majority of these meetings (85 percent) require lodging, resulting in a total of 250 million overnight stays by 117 million American and 5 million international attendees. (Eighty-three million attendees travel less than 50 miles or do not stay overnight.) Of the 205 million attendees, 162 million are delegates, 18 million are exhibitors and 25 million are event organizers, staff, members of the press or other attendees.
Of the 1.8 million gatherings: 1.3 million are corporate or business meetings; 270,000 are conventions, conferences or congresses; 11,000 are trade shows; and 66,000 are incentive meetings (178,000 fall into other categories). These meetings and events contribute $263 billion in direct spending to the U.S. economy, generating $14.3 billion in federal tax revenue, and $11.3 billion in state and local tax revenue. If indirect and induced spending amounts are factored into the equation, the total annual economic contribution of the meetings and convention industry is $907 billion, which generates $64 billion in federal tax revenue and $46 billion in state and local tax revenue.
Out of the $263 billion in direct spending produced by the meetings and events industry, more than half — $151 billion — is meeting planning and production related, and $113 billion is travel and tourism related (representing 16 percent of the $708 billion generated annually by the U.S. travel and tourism industry).
Delegates, exhibitors and other attendees traveling to meetings and events spend $145 billion on attendance-related items. Their biggest expenditures are on registration fees (46 percent), accommodations (17 percent), food and beverage (13 percent), air transportation (9 percent), retail (3 percent), gasoline (3 percent), entertainment/recreation (3 percent), car rental (3 percent) and urban transit (1 percent).
When a meeting is produced, organizers spend an average of $1,290 per attendee. Incentive meetings have the highest per-capita spend ($1,620), followed by conventions/congresses ($1,430), trade shows ($1,360), corporate meetings ($1,230) and other meetings ($850).