For most people, reading a blog about the economic impacts of the meetings industry is about as dull as reading Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. It turns out, however, that the analysis provided by the 45,000 meeting organizers and venue managers who were surveyed quantifies a vital industry that contributes billions of dollars to the U.S. economy, while creating millions of jobs.  Pretty cool, eh?

As the owner of a business which was designed specifically for hosting corporate functions, I am often asked, “What made you think of starting this type business?”  I explain that I believe in the significant and positive impacts of face-to-face interaction, and how a meaningful and effective meeting can have a long-term influence on any organization.

While some people respond favorably to my philosophy about offsite meetings, many become disenchanted with my answer and I can see that although they’re nodding their head in agreement, they’ve checked out of the conversation and begun having one with themselves, like, “Did I feed the dog this morning?”

To keep everyone’s attention here, I am going to highlight the 3 most significant takeaways from the 2018 Oxford Economics study on the economic significance of the meetings industry.  “But why is this important to me?” you ask… I’ll get to that in a moment.

  1. Jobs. The meetings sector supports more direct jobs than the large manufacturing sectors, including computer and electronic products, food, auto, and chemicals.  It sustains more jobs than the motion picture and oil and gas extraction industries as well.  In 2016, the meetings sector generated $249.2 billion of labor income; produced $104.5 billion of taxes (combined federal and state); sustained 5.9 million jobs.
  2. GDP. As we learned in high school Economics, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the most powerful indicator of our country’s development and progress.  In 2016, the meetings sector contributed $184 billion to the GDP, up 20% from 2012.  The meetings sector’s direct contribution to the GDP is greater than that of auto manufacturing; rail and water transportation; oil and gas extraction, just to name a few.
  3. Tax. The total tax impact of the meetings sector per household was $879 per U.S. household in 2016.  What does this mean?  This tax offset represents the federal, state and local taxes that would otherwise need to be paid per U.S. household to compensate for the absence of the meetings sector activity.

I’d like to draw your attention to one more interesting statistic from this study.  Spending on food and beverage services represented nearly 30% of gross meeting expenditures in 2016 (followed by audio-visual).

“When businesses plan offsite retreats and strategic planning sessions, there is a huge opportunity for our local eateries to benefit!”

Going back to your question, “Why is this study important to me?”  Consider all the time you spent last year inside hotel banquet rooms and conference centers.  Maybe you were attending a continuing education course, seminar, retreat or business reception.  Knowing that not everyone shares my infatuation with meetings, the incredible analysis conducted by Oxford Economics on the meetings sector provides a clear and credible statistical base on which to gain recognition for this vast and diverse industry as a vital economic driver (and clearly articulates the downstream effect on other industries and the people who work in them).  Having a better understanding of the economic significance as well as the depth and breadth of the meetings industry should nullify any trepidations about planning, hosting, paying for, sponsoring, or attending a business function.  Don’t we all benefit from a thriving, healthy economy?

While this study focuses on the value of the meetings industry to the overall economy, the many other benefits resulting from meetings that are held should not be overlooked. To the millions of attendees annually, these events provide an invaluable source of adult learning, continuing education for professional certifications and licensure, a forum for developing and maintaining professional contacts, an effective and efficient means of enhancing sales efforts, a medium for information exchange leading to innovation, new medical treatments and research breakthroughs, among other benefits.