The Events Industry Council, in collaboration with Oxford Economics, conducted a groundbreaking study that explored the broader economic impact of business events beyond direct spending. The 2023 Global Economic Significance of Business Events study revealed that the global events industry, valued at $1.6 trillion USD, extends far beyond expenditures on hotels, meeting venues, AV equipment, and on-site food and beverage.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Oxford Economics had already assessed the economic contributions of the global events industry in 2019. The findings indicated that the industry, encompassing 1.6 billion participants across 180 countries, generated $1.2 trillion in direct spending and contributed to total business sales of $2.8 trillion—a 9.1% increase compared to the previous year. Additionally, the industry supported 27.5 million jobs. With an average spending of $707 per participant, the global events industry made a remarkable $1.6 trillion contribution to the global GDP.
However, the emergence of COVID-19 led to widespread shutdowns of in-person events, resulting in a staggering $1.9 trillion economic loss for the global economy between 2020 and 2022. Although the industry began its recovery in 2022, spending levels were still approximately 20% lower than in 2019. Despite an 80% increase in direct spending on business events in 2022, primarily driven by the Middle East, North America, and Central and Eastern Europe, global business activity was still around 20% lower than pre-pandemic levels in 2019.
The study also delved into the evolving nature of the meetings and events landscape, beyond its traditional role in knowledge sharing. According to the findings, 41% of respondents believed that business events would play an increasingly important role in building culture and engagement, while 36% expected events to contribute to individual employee growth.
The study highlighted the catalytic effects of face-to-face meetings and events, as revealed by a global survey of over 1,600 meeting professionals, exhibitors, and venues in 2022. The findings indicated that in-person events are critical for maintaining relationship-building, worker collaboration, and business development. The survey respondents noted that relationship management, awareness, and acquiring new customers were top indicators of the catalytic impacts of business events. Face-to-face interaction was deemed the most challenging aspect to replace, with 67% stating that building relationships through in-person engagement was difficult to replicate. In-person events also proved instrumental in generating new customers, with up to 22% of new customer acquisitions occurring through face-to-face interactions.
The study further highlighted the significant revenue loss experienced when in-person events were unable to take place. Forty-four percent of respondents noted this impact, while 65% highlighted the adverse effects of COVID-19 shutdowns on innovation, including reduced prioritization of research.