Need more proof that face-to-face business meetings and events are back?
Look no further than the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) annual conference in Atlanta which delivered another resounding validation that in-person business meetings are not only bringing meeting attendees together for education, networking and business opportunities, but also serving as an economic stimulus for hotels and destinations.
ASAE’s Annual Meeting & Exposition brought more than 5,100 association professionals, exhibitors and guests, press, vendors and staff to Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center for the second fully in-person ASAE conference since the pandemic ended.
With more than 115 learning sessions, ASAE curated five career and knowledge pathways and offered keynote speakers such as Daymond John from ABC’s Shark Tank, Chad Foster, the first blind graduate of the Harvard Business School leadership program, and Soledad O’Brien, an award-winning journalist, entrepreneur and host of the weekly talk show, Matter of Fact, all under a theme of Shape Your Purpose.
While the education and networking were a boon to attendees, the conference reinforced Atlanta as a convention city where conferences and business meetings drive an $18 million business and support nearly 300,000 jobs.
“Last year, we had almost 50 million visitors, which is off of our peak of 57 million in 2019,” said William Pate, President and CEO of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau. “But as you've seen on the show floor, and as you're seeing in cities all across the country, meetings are definitely back which really presents us a great opportunity to host ASAE at this time.
“Atlanta is convention city and it's a business city. But it's not like New York or Chicago where just in the course of business you find yourself in those cities every three or four years. It's really important for us to refresh our customer's perspective about what's been going on and what's happening here in Atlanta, so to be able to host ASAE where we have over 5000 meeting planners and decision makers and decision influencers here all at once really provides us with a fantastic opportunity.”
Future Business for Atlanta, Hotels
Pate said that about 20% of the people who attend ASAE will book business in the next five to seven years. “That's about $500 million worth of business,” he added. “For a convention city like Atlanta, where 60% of our convention business is association business, you can begin to see how the numbers really begin to add up and become very important to us.”
Since ASAE was last in Atlanta, 2013, the city had undergone major changes with the new Mercedes Benz stadium, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and the College Football Hall of Fame, all within walking distance of the convention center and the famed Georgia Aquarium and World of Coca-Cola. Add in strong airlift at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, home to Delta Airlines, 13,000 hotel rooms and 300 restaurants within walking distance of the convention center, the city is well positioned for business meetings.
Pate projects that business meetings will exceed 2019 numbers by 2024.
“Our business is very strong over the next eight years,” he said. “We just came off a fantastic second quarter. Meetings are definitely back. Attendance is back.”
The only shortfall has been in international business, but as Delta and other airlines has opened more international routes post-pandemic, the city will benefit.
“We'll pick up the international piece,” Pate said. “Our convention booking pace is very strong as we look out, so we feel really, really good about it.”
ASAE Headquarters Hotel
The Omni Atlanta Hotel at CNN Center was the center of ASAE, serving at the conference’s headquarter hotel.
“Hosting ASAE this year was a fantastic opportunity for the hotel,” said Allison Borden, CMP, Director, Sales&Marketing. “You truly cannot put a value on the opportunity to showcase not only the hotel but the city as a whole to these meeting planners and executives. We have so many exciting things happening in Atlanta, and it was so impactful to be able to share those stories in person and have the attendees experience it first-hand.
“The ASAE Annual Conference reinforced that nothing compares to meeting face-to-face. The Omni Atlanta has had the unique opportunity to watch first-hand as companies, colleagues and friends come together for the first time in so many years, whether it be for a large citywide convention or an intimate board meeting. Our lobby lends itself to networking and connection, and that was evident during ASAE as colleagues and friends reconnected whether it be since last year’s conference or many years before.”
Michelle Mason, President and CEO of ASAE, also alluded to the return of meetings.
‘William pointed out that historically about 20% of ASAE attendees end up looking at a future meeting in the ASAE host city within five years, so we're very confident that this meeting will pay off pay great dividends for Atlanta,” she said. “In addition to that, the immediate economic impact of hosting the ASAE Annual meeting typically ranges from $15 to $18 million over the four-day period of time, so that downstream economic impact is pretty significant.