The business meetings industry: Don’t bet against us, we’re much bigger than you think

Is it any wonder why I sense a very small percentage of our friends and family actually know what “we” do for a living? When I say “we,” I’m referring to the droves of people in this country that are directly employed within the business meetings industry. On that very same note, very few people likely know what our economic contribution to the system is either, and that includes most of us that work in it.

In a time of economic uncertainty, political fodder, scandal after scandal and a barrage of municipal, provincial and federal elections on the horizon, who’s looking out for us? The same “us” that drives billions of direct and indirect dollars into our system and employ hundreds of thousands of Canadians through the business events we generate.
The business meetings industry: We’re much bigger than you think
At the recent National Meetings Industry Day (NMID) events, in case you didn’t notice, there was a collective industry roar across the country. A roar signifying the beginning of a shift where voices across varying industry factions are joining forces to send a message. And the hope is that this time around, everyone will take notice and listen.

The focal point in the coming weeks will be the much talked about 3.0 version of the Canadian Economic Impact Study. An initiative spearheaded by the MPI Foundation and conducted by Maritz Research, the Conference Board of Canada, Greenfield Services Inc. and the Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council. But this time the strategy is a lot more tactical; not only will the content be more focused but so will be the level of marketing and communication to the masses. Enter the Business Events Industry Coalition of Canada (BEICC).

In a landmark agreement, the MPI Foundation gifted the study to the BEICC, who represents eight major business meeting industry associations and will take on the task of marketing the all-important study. A study that most business event professionals don’t realize, holds content to how we can shape our industry for the future. With a sound coalition body, a larger, more collective voice representing all interests can get the study in the hands of key stakeholders, all levels of government academia and “you” the professionals embedded in the industry.

So how big is the business meetings industry? Early in the spring, some preliminary data was released in advance of the complete study. Consider these statistics*:

  • In 2012, business events in Canada attracted 35.3 million participants and involved $29.1billion in direct spending across a broad range of participants and non-participants.
  • These events delivered $27.5 billion to Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2012 -approximately 1.5 per cent of Canada’s total GDP.
  • Business events contributed $8.5 billion in taxes and service fees to all levels of government.
  • Business events supported employment of more than 200,000 full-year jobs directly – nearly double that of telecommunications or utilities.
  • Including indirect and induced employment effects, business events in Canada supported more than 340,000 full-year jobs.
  • The analysis reveals that one full-year job is supported in Canada for every $85,000 indirect spending on business events.
  • These economic effects were generated by more than 585,000 business events held in Canada during 2012 in more than 2,000 venues.
  • The 35 million people who attended business events in Canada in 2012 included 30.7 million delegates, over 2 million exhibitors, and 2.6 million professional speakers or other attendees.

Check here for the full advanced CEIS 3.0 Executive Summary.

These are glaring figures for an industry that has had little help during the cyclical free fall cycles since the disaster and tragedies of 9-11. No bailouts, no tax relief and no financial injections through any crises. But this is merely the “tip” of the iceberg. How would we fare with a full, comprehensive report in the right hands coupled with an educated workforce, academic industry newcomers and a collective voice? I wouldn’t bet against us, that’s for sure.

And how about the indirect contribution business events provide? Very rarely considered but I’d challenge you to think about the trades, the cups of coffee, the technological hardware, uniforms and linens, furniture and furnishings, farmers, commodities, etc. that is required to support the nearly $30 billion dollar business meetings industry.

We are a story and we need to share it and the study will be our greatest tool to do so. Next time someone tries to guess your occupation, tell them we mean business, and in this case “size matters.”

*1 Source – CEIS 3.0 Executive Summary

About the author:

The big city kid from Toronto has always been surrounded by food and events for as long as he can remember. His mission? Take his nearly 20 years of experience and change the way people think before they plan to meet, eat and socialize. At every opportunity, Trevor relishes and tries to learn the trade from every possible angle. Now, his focus is to reciprocate all the knowledge and import funky, stylish and cutting edge methods to implement sustainability into every aspect of business. Social or corporate, Trevor relies on his passion and personality to broker effective relationships. Lessons learned in his times at the largest event venues, hotel chains and entertainment complexes producing and strategizing for his clients. Today, if not directing operations at the iconic International Centre in Toronto, Trevor can be found wired to social media, speaking at events or classrooms, penning an article or at a boardroom stategizing sustainable ideas that challenge the status quo. Trevor’s passion is relentless, genuine and much like his vision and sense of style, both different and memorable. He believes in the thought process as much as the risk within the action even when it comes down to accessorizing his socks and pocket squares to his signature bowties.

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