New EIC Research Reveals ‘Immense’ Economic Significance and Resilience of the Business Events Industry
The future is looking bright for the business events industry, according to the 2023 Global Economic Significance of Business Events study by the Events Industry Council (EIC) in partnership with Oxford Economics.
The 2023 edition of the study, which measured the full scope of the $1.6 trillion global business events industry, revealed its massive and far-reaching impact, its resilience following the pandemic — with global event spending expected to reach 2019 levels by 2025 — and the importance of face-to-face interaction.
“Business events have a GDP larger than many global economies,” said Amy Calvert, CEO of EIC. “The economic significance of the global business events industry is immense, and so are its broader impacts.”
For the first-time, EIC and Oxford Economics measured the critical role business events serve in areas like knowledge sharing, innovation and employee engagement — critical impacts that go well beyond direct event spending.
“Events are a catalyst for meaningful change,” Calvert said. “Across industry sectors, organizations and individuals all gain in ways that are fundamental to advancement, innovation and adaptation to a changing world.”
Calvert added that the way the industry understands, measures and communicates the importance of business events is vital to showcasing its overall value.
Oxford Economics first analyzed the economic significance of business events during 2019 to establish the full scope and economic impact of the sector before the COVID-19 pandemic, with the following key findings:
- Total participants: 1.6 billion
- Direct spending: $1.2 trillion
- Total business sales: $2.8 trillion
- Total jobs: 27.5 million
- Contribution to global GDP: $1.6 trillion
The extensive research analysis in the latest study across 50 countries included the important, yet often overlooked, “catalytic” effects or wide-reaching benefits of business events hosted within destinations. A 2022 global survey of over 1,600 meeting professionals, exhibitors and venues reveal that relationship-building, worker collaboration and business development are the most difficult outcomes to replace without meetings and events.
Other Key Findings
- Event organizers ranked relationship management, awareness and new customers as the most important ways they measure the catalytic impacts of business events.
- 67% view building relationships through face-to-face interaction as the most difficult to replace.
- As much as 22% of new customers are generated through in-person events.
- The reduction of business events due to COVID-19 led to significant loss of innovation, with 65% reporting a decrease in research and development prioritization.
- Organizers believe an average of 44% of revenues would be lost without hosting in-person events.
In 2022, global business events recovered solidly to about 80% of pre-pandemic levels. The Middle East, North America Central Europe and Eastern Europe have led the recovery, reaching spending levels in 2022 that approached 2019 levels, lifted in part by an earlier recovery of travel and normalization of pandemic-related risks.
While Asia, Western Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean have generally experienced a slower pace of recovery, these regions are expected to experience some of the strongest growth of any of the global regions.
Adjusted for inflation, global event spending is forecast to approach 2019 levels by 2025.
The industry has made significant strides to recover losses, according to Adam Sacks, president of Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics company, who said two-thirds of global direct business event spending was lost in 2020, and the three-year cumulative lost sales total $1.9 trillion USD.
“When we embarked on this study, we knew getting a total picture of the global business events sector was critical for EIC’s advocacy efforts on behalf of its global membership,” Sacks said. “Now we have the data to show that the business events total GDP impact would rank as the 13th largest global economy, and recovery is well underway. The economic implications are massive.”
The Value Proposition of Events
The study also illuminates how the value proposition of events is evolving. Event organizers can anticipate that supporting environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) objectives, advancing the business of the organization and knowledge-sharing will be higher priorities for event organizers in the future.
Other Key Findings
- Business events will be increasingly important in building culture and engagement (41%) and will be used more to advance growth of individual employees (36%).
- Over time, many events are anticipated to adopt hybrid formats, as 40% of respondents suggest.
- While the size of business meetings or events is expected to decline in the short term (48% of respondents), only 10% agree this will be a long-term shift.
“Our comprehensive research and global events barometer forecasting model with Oxford Economics reveal the industry’s substantial value drivers,” Calvert said. “We know business events offer irreplaceable benefits like knowledge sharing, research collaboration and human capital development.
Calvert added, “These findings not only help industry professionals make more informed and effective decisions, but also deepen our relevance and connection with global society.”