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April 16, 2008

EIBTM to host pilot scheme for global meetings initiative

According to some estimates, meetings delegates spend on average twice as much as tourists, usually staying in four and five-star hotels. Yet there is no official recognised understanding of this impact on the tourism sector.

Santiago Guerreiro, an international economist appointed in September by the joint steering group set up to implement an extension of Tourism Satellite Accounting, said there was strong evidence to suggest that the meetings industry made a significant contribution to the economy.

According to data from Turespaña 2007, he said that on average tourists spent 857 euros, business tourists 1,081 euros and meeting participants a total of 1,529 euros. On top of this, the corporate/association meetings share in hotels during 2006 was, for example, 70% in the United States; 61% in Canada; 32% Europe and 55.9% in Spain.

Speaking at a seminar at EIBTM 2007 in Barcelona, Guerreiro added: “We need to convince governments of the importance and relevance of the meetings industry, but we will need to manage harmonised collection of data to be able to make it happen.

“Our overall goal is to provide a standard methodology for measuring the economic value of the meetings industry, adapting Tourism Satellite Accounting’s conceptual framework to identify and measure adequately.”

But he stressed that this can only take place with a global industry commitment to harmonising concepts and methodologies and supporting efforts towards identification of the meetings industry.

Guerreiro and the steering group that is funding the project – the UNWTO, the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), Meeting Professionals International (MPI), Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE) and EIBTM – met the six countries that have agreed to take part in a pilot scheme for the first time at EIBTM. They are Australia, Austria, Canada, Mexico, South Africa and Spain.

Over the next 12-18 months, Guerreiro said that he would be working with the identified countries to assess data for the supply side such as fees, commissions, costs, value added and employment; and on the demand side, including expenditure by participants at meetings on specific identified services supplied by the meetings industry or other industries. This could also include other complementary volume data such as numbers of participants, length of meetings, number of nights in hotels or other accommodation, distance travelled to attend a meeting and the number in the group.

During the pilot studies, he said the key areas of assessment would be the Tourism Satellite Accounts, visitor surveys, national account sector surveys and industry-specific surveys, as well as key aspects of adaptation and harmonisation. Crucial partners in this process will be the national statistical offices and tourism promotion organisations.

The pilot countries have been asked to assemble appropriate teams already heavily involved in data collection.

“It is clear that the meetings industry has an economic relevance and is a key driver of growth,” added Guerreiro. “But there is a lack of a harmonised, integrated approach to measurement which is damaging the industry’s visibility, recognition and credibility.”

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