The new co-chair of Meetings Mean Business Coalition (MMB) appreciates the value of face-to-face meetings acutely. At his first press conference with co-chair Trina Camacho-London, vice president of global group sales at Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Fred Dixon, president and CEO of NYC & Company, reported that of 13 million business travelers to New York City in 2018, almost half were meeting delegates (6.2 million). That added up to $5.3 billion in direct spend out of a total $46.4 billion—just over 11 percent of total spending by other visitors, including general business, leisure and those who reported “visiting friends and relatives.”
Meeting delegates have remained an important foundation of the city’s hotel sector and visitation. They comprise about 10 percent of the total visitation in any given year, but their spending averages more per day and per trip than leisure visitors, Dixon said.
International delegates in the five boroughs spend a little more per day than their domestic counterparts and stay more than twice as long in the city—a common pattern for international travelers.
The two joined with Roger Dow, president and CEO of U.S. Travel Association, to announce that in 2019, the meetings economy topped $1 trillion globally. “Our work helped to strengthen the meetings economy…[it] continued to grow year-over-year across all major metrics,” Camacho-London said.
2020 MMB Goals
In the coming year, the coalition, which grew out of the negative publicity the industry received in 2009, will focus on preaching beyond the choir. The goal is to share the message of the economic, scientific and cultural impact of meetings to a larger business, government and media audience.
Dixon pointed to the power of the group’s “Worth Meeting About” message to remind policy-makers that particularly in an election year, they leverage face-to-face meetings in their own lives, whether on the campaign trail or at meetings with Congress or city councils. In fact, mayors are one of the target audiences in 2020.
“Elected officials consistently make decisions that impact the reputational and financial health of the industry, so the focus will be specifically on mayors, who’ve long championed the industry on the local level, as well as city councils and local chambers of commerce,” Dixon said. MMB will be attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors this week in Washington, D.C., to engage them directly.
Tuesday, April 14, marks the fifth annual Global Meetings Industry Day celebration. Last year, the demonstration of industry power materialized in the form of 275 events in more than 50 countries. This year, the group is looking for even more engagement and deeper exposure, on the heels of the 88 million social impressions generated in 2019. In New York City specifically, Dixon plans to continue to light landmarks with MMB blue and will again host the tristate meeting planner event.
“We are doubling down on external outreach to ensure the value of meetings is better understood by those who make decisions, policies and protocols that impact our industry,” Dixon said.
At the same time, more destinations are leveraging the platform, including chapters in Canada and India.
That $1 trillion number is a powerful motivating force for government leaders, and MMB is investing in fleshing out even more data that will speak to policy-makers. The group will build on past coalition research and survey results by introducing new market dashboards with revenue and job data to highlight the economic impact of meetings, using state and local data. That information will be sent biannually to mayors, city council members, chamber leaders and federal legislators in priority markets.
New corporate case studies will tell the qualitative stories by influential businesses of how face-to-face meetings were a lifeline during the most recent economic recession.
Dow called MMB “an insurance policy for industry’s continued success” and protection for everything from security issues to weaponization of meetings for political purposes.