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UNWTO Affiliate Members Programme

By Ocean Belcher


The Meetings Industry is one of the key drivers of tourism destination development and an important generator of income, employment and foreign investment. It presents opportunities for knowledge sharing and networking, while also being an influential factor of regional cooperation and progression. The term “Meetings Industry” has been the generally accepted standard title for the sector and refers to the coming together of people for the purposes of business, professional and scientific development as well as sharing knowledge and expertise. It is an important niche segment of tourism (related to a proportion of delegate expenditure) that contributes to broader economic sectors, and the financial returns from this industry are often far outweighed by broader community and economic development benefits.

The new Affiliate Members Global Report on the Meetings Industry sets out to provide a practical approach to the Industry that aids new destinations and organizations wishing to specialise in the market. Expert Affiliate Members from within this sector have presented case studies and best practice examples on how to operate as a leader in the field and operate in a sustainable and progressive manner. These contributors are Meeting Professionals International (MPI), Agéncia de Turisme de les Illes Balears, Asociación Hotelera y Turística de Colombia, Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE), Camara Argentina de Turismo, DiscoverMICE, International Congress & Convention Association (ICCA), Madrid Visitors and Convention Bureau, Tourism Enterprise and Management (TEAM), the Joint Meetings Industry Council and IMEX Group.

This Global Report builds on previous publications by the UNWTO highlighting and measuring the economic relevance of the Meetings Industry and its tourism connections, while illustrating this through real world case studies. These earlier publications have formed an essential part of the process by enriching our understanding of former insights, opportunities and challenges and providing a wider context for which these have been derived.

The collaborative study, “Measuring the Economic Importance of the Meetings Industry: Developing a Tourism Satellite Account Extension” was first published in 2006 and was a joint initiative between the World Tourism Organization and Affiliate Members, Reed Travel Exhibitions, the International Congress & Convention Association (ICCA) and Meeting Professional International (MPI).  It arose as a method to address concerns raised by the UNWTO Department of Statistics and Economic Measurement of Tourism, and the Affiliate Members Programme in regards to how best measure the Meetings Industry´s linkage to tourism, and the extent to which the framework of the Tourism Satellite Account (TSA) was capable of clarifying this linkage from a macroeconomic perspective. By using the TSA framework it hoped to broaden and strengthen the public’s recognition of the meetings industry within tourism, as well as providing a systematic approach to measuring the sectors economic contributions to the economy. Therefore the publication analyzes the potential adoption of this method. It presents an overview of the current measurement system of the Global Meetings Industry and the inherent gaps therein, including the differing definitions for meetings, questions of reliability, diversity and inconsistency within current data, and the fact that this data is created for different purposes using different methodologies, thus making it incomparable.

Additionally, “MICE Industry: An Asia-Pacific Perspective” was published in 2012. This resulted from a cooperative project between the UNWTO and the Chinese city of Hangzhou with the aim of displaying the potential for further development of the Meetings Industry in the Asia-Pacific region. This region is one of the fastest developing regions in the world, with some countries and cities already leading in this sector. The report has recognized the potential of this industry to bring economic, social and intellectual benefits, and exemplifies that we are seeing ever more exhibition grounds, accommodation units and entertainment facilities being constructed throughout the region, as many destinations transform themselves in order to diversify and gain competitive advantage within the Meetings Industry.

Illustrating the economic importance of the Meetings Industry as well as displaying case studies and best practices from industry leaders within this new AM Global Report will help to characterize this niche sector that contributes significantly to Gross Domestic and Regional Product, as well as promoting an awareness of challenges faced within the sector for new entrants. As competition for tourist expenditure is becoming increasingly intense around the world with many countries and destinations seeking to gain a competitive edge through niche tourism, understanding how to develop successfully and sustainably is vital.


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