Study Analyzes Impact of $1.6 Trillion Global Business Events Industry

Research from the Events Industry Council and Oxford Economics reveals the economic impact, pandemic losses and long-range benefits of meetings.

Illustration by Sergey Nivens for Adobe Stock
Illustration by Sergey Nivens for Adobe Stock

The 2023 Global Economic Significance of Business Events, released today, analyzes the $1.6 trillion global business industry, whose hard-to-measure “catalytic effects” go well beyond direct spending. The sweeping study from the Events Industry Council and Oxford Economics updates previous findings on the economic significance of the industry, assesses losses due to the pandemic, and provides an outlook for the future.

The primary research was conducted through a survey of global event organizers, venues, destination marketing organizations and suppliers. More than 1,600 industry participants responded to the survey. Following are the key findings.

Scope of the global business-events industry

To assess the economic significance of business events accurately, researchers calculated the findings using 2019 metrics. Business events involved 1.6 billion participants across more than 180 countries; generated more than $1.15 trillion in direct spending (business sales); supported 10.9 million direct jobs globally and generated $662.6 billion in direct GDP. The average spending per participant was $707.

Accounting for indirect and induced impacts, business events supported a total global economic impact in 2019 of $2.8 trillion in output (business sales), 27.5 million jobs and $1.6 trillion in GDP (representing contribution to global gross domestic product).

The business-events sector directly generated more sales than any other large global sectors, including telecommunications equipment and air transport. The $2.8 trillion in total output supported by global business events represents a 9.1 percent increase relative to 2017, the prior year reported by the EIC.

Lost business costs trillions 

The Covid-19 pandemic cost the global economy $1.9 trillion in lost business-event spending from 2020 through 2022. The segment was in recovery in 2022, but losses during that year still amounted to 29 percent of expected spending compared with prepandemic spending. 

The lost business also cost the business-events industry 5.8 million jobs annually, or more than 16 million annual job equivalents over the three-year period. Losses were steepest in Western Europe, at $621 billion, and lowest in the Middle East at $16 billion.

Estimated direct spending on business events increased almost 80 percent in 2022 vs. the prior year. With this gain, global business-events activity in 2022 was about 20 percent below 2019 levels. 

Global Business event spending is forecast to recover to 2019 levels in 2024. 

The “catalytic effect” of business events

Researchers defined catalytic effects as the broader impacts that occur as a result of business events, such as new business opportunities, knowledge transfers, future sales, business collaborations, new skills learned, and career connections made through conferences. Other examples of catalytic effects include future investment in infrastructure, industry, innovation and progress on advanced research.

“Many catalytic effects are difficult to measure and quantify,” researchers noted in the executive summary. “This presents the key risk that much of the true significance of business events goes unmeasured, unreported, and therefore undervalued.” 

For more information, contact the Events Industry Council.