The $1.6 trillion global business meeting and event industry recovered at about 80% of pre-COVID pandemic levels in 2022 according to a signature research report released Monday by the Events Industry Council and Oxford Economics.

The 2023 Global Economic Significance of Business Events report showed that two thirds of global direct business event spending was lost in 2020, the year the pandemic started, with three-year cumulative lost sales totaling $1.9 trillion. Adjusted for inflation, event spending is forecast to approach levels by 2025, according to the study.

The report also for the first time measured the critical role business events serve in areas such as knowledge sharing, innovation and employee engagement, important impacts that go well beyond direct event spending. In essence, the report validated that business meetings are resilient and face-to-fact interaction is critically important.

“Business events are a $1.6 trillion industry, with a GDP (gross domestic product) larger than many global economies,” said Amy Calvert, CEO of the Events Industry Council, made up of more than 30 member organizations representing over 103,500 individuals and 19,500 firms and properties involved in the events industry.

“The economic significance of the global business events industry is immense, and so are its broader impact. Events are a catalyst for meaningful change. Across industry sectors, organizations and individuals all gain in ways that are fundamental to advancement, innovation and adaptation to a changing world. The way we understand, measure and communicate the importance of business events is vital to showcasing its overall value.”

The study by Oxford Economics, one of the world’s foremost independent global advisory firms, showed that event organizers ranked relationship management, awareness and new customers as the most important ways they measure the catalytic impacts of business events. Oxford Economics conducted its research in a 2022 global survey of more than 1,600 meeting professionals, exhibitors and venues.

Oxford Economics analyzed the economic significance of business events during 2019 and reported the industry’s contribution to the global GDP of $1.6 trillion resulting from $1.2 trillion in direct spend and $2.8 trillion in total business sales.

Additionally, 27.5 million jobs were supported by the industry.

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Impact of Face-to-Face

The report showed that 67% of respondents view building relationships through face-to-face interaction as most difficult to replace with as much as 22% of new customers generated through in-person events.

Event organizers believe an average of 44% of revenues would be lost without hosting in-person events.

“Whether it’s the critical role face-to-face interaction plays in relationship building or how business events are increasingly important in building culture and engagement, the study findings support that in-person benefits are still overwhelmingly valuable,” Calvert said.

“Our study supports a better understanding of both the economic significance and larger impacts of in-person event experiences, looking forward from COVID-19 disruptions,” she added. “Our comprehensive research and global events barometer forecasting model with Oxford Economics reveal the industry’s substantial value drivers. We know business events offer irreplaceable benefits like knowledge sharing, research collaboration and human capital development. These findings not only help industry professionals make more informed and effective decisions, but also deepen our relevance and connection with global society.”

COVID-19 Impact and Recovery

North America, the Middle East, and Central and Eastern Europe have led the recovery from the pandemic, reaching spending levels in 2022 that approached 2019 levels, lifted in part by an earlier recovery of travel and normalization of pandemic-related risks, according to the report.

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,” said Adam Sacks, President of Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics company. “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. Now we have the data to show that the business events total GDP impact would rank as 13th largest global economy and recovery is well underway. The economic implications are massive.”

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Oxford Study Shows Value Proposition of Events

The study revealed how the value proposition of events is evolving. Event organizers can anticipate that building culture and engagement, supporting environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) objectives, advancing the business of the organization and knowledge-sharing are higher priorities for event organizers in the future.

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.

Learn more about the 2023 Global Economic Significance of Business Events study.