By Itzel Trujillo García
The International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) is publicly releasing new information to shed more light on how the pandemic impacted the association meetings industry in 2021. The Public Abstract of the ICCA Annual Statistics report is now available for non-ICCA members after a one-year hiatus. Due to the transformational events of 2020, ICCA refined its approach to the report by including meetings that were affected by the pandemic as well as those that remained unaffected. Now, non-ICCA members can also benefit from this new methodology, called the Destination Performance Index (DPI), which provides a more holistic view of how destinations have addressed recent challenges.
Additionally, the Public Abstract presents the top destinations for association meetings in 2021, based on estimated total number of attendees for hybrid and virtual events. It also provides a three-year economic impact analysis, which is usually not available to non-ICCA members.
“We believe it’s very important that the world has a clearer sense of how the global association meetings industry has transformed during the past two years. In delivering an abstract of ICCA’s Annual Statistics report to the public once again, we are recognising the tremendous effort that destinations and meeting suppliers have made to adapt and even thrive through pandemic challenges,” said Senthil Gopinath, CEO, ICCA.
The DPI examines 8,000 international association meetings scheduled for 2021, based on six performance indicators (planned, unaffected, virtual, hybrid, digitalisation, and business continuation). When combined, the indicators represent the overall DPI, highlighting how destinations have performed with regard to winning the original bid, COVID policies, adaptability, and technological capabilities to convert on-site events into virtual/hybrid events.
Destinations demonstrate resilience, adaptability
The countries and cities represented in the top 20 meeting destinations in 2021 are similar to the 2019 report, with a few exceptions. As in 2019, the USA is the top performing country for association meetings in the DPI as they ranked 1st in four of the six indicators (planned, virtual, digitalisation, and business continuation). The remaining two indicators, unaffected and hybrid, were topped by Spain and China-P.R., respectively. Vienna and Lisbon were close contenders in the DPI for cities but Vienna ultimately claimed the lead due to having more unaffected meetings in 2021.
Overall, Europe was a strong performer as an association meeting destination during the pandemic. Seventy percent of the top 20 countries and 80% of the top 20 cities are European. Denmark and Greece replaced Argentina and Brazil in the top 20 countries for meetings. Austria made the biggest jump, from 16th to 11th place. Italy claimed 5th place from the United Kingdom. Spain jumped two spots since 2019 to become the 2nd meeting destination globally.
Facing stricter COVID policies than many other meeting destinations worldwide, China P.R, Japan, and the Republic of Korea embraced new technologies to go hybrid. In fact, due to their high number of hybrid meetings, the Republic of Korea replaced the Netherlands in the top 10 country destinations.
Amongst destination cities, Montreal (19th) and Dubai (21st) were both outliers within their respective regions. Montreal was the only North American city in the top 20. Dubai ranked 1st for unaffected meetings and was the only Middle Eastern city represented in the six individual top 20 rankings. Meanwhile, Budapest, Porto, and Stockholm are all newcomers to the top 20 DPI for cities.
“With this Public Abstract of our annual statistics report, we also aim to advocate for the meetings industry and the positive effects that association meetings have on destinations. It is crucial that our global community strengthens ties between each other as well as with industries such as aviation and healthcare. Association meetings create jobs and boost local economies. Moreover, they are vital to international knowledge-sharing and problem-solving,” said Gopinath.
The full report ICCA Annual Statistics report, available only to ICCA members, contains additional analysis on the top destinations, economic impact, regional/global business-continuation and meeting subject matters