The latest report by International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), a global meetings industry association, says that there was little change in its listing of top 20 meeting destinations between 2019 and 2021, representing pre-pandemic and post-pandemic environments.
The report says that as in 2019, the United States remained the the top performing country for association meetings, says the Destination Performance Index (DPI), which provides a more holistic view of how destinations have addressed recent challenges.
The DPI says that the USA ranked 1st in four of the six indicators set out in the new methodology prepared by ICCA, viz planned, virtual, digitalisation, and business continuation. The remaining two indicators, unaffected and hybrid, were topped by Spain and China 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, says the report by ICCA.
The DPI says that overall, Europe was a strong performer as an association meeting destination during the pandemic. As many as 70 pc of the top 20 countries and 80 pc of the top 20 cities that figure in the latest DPI 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. Moreover, Italy claimed 5th place from the United Kingdom, while Spain jumped two spots since 2019 to become the 2nd meeting destination globally.
Facing stricter Covid-19 policies than many other meeting destinations worldwide, China, Japan, and South Korea embraced new technologies to go hybrid. In fact, due to their high number of hybrid meetings, South 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. Incidentally, the city had successfully hosted the Dubai Expo 2020 which saw over 23 million tourists from all over the world, despite the pandemic, making it the biggest event to have taken place in many years. Meanwhile, Budapest, Porto, and Stockholm are all newcomers to the top 20 DPI for cities.
The ICCA says that due to the transformational events of 2020, it refined its approach to the report by including meetings that were affected by the pandemic as well as those that remained unaffected. 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.
“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,” says Senthil Gopinath, CEO, ICCA.
The DPI is based on over 8,000 international association meetings scheduled for 2021 and considers six performance indicators viz planned, unaffected, virtual, hybrid, digitalisation, and business continuation. ICCA says that when they are combined, the indicators represent the overall DPI, highlighting how destinations have performed with regard to winning the original bid, Covid-19 policies, adaptability, and technological capabilities to convert on-site events into virtual/hybrid events.
“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,” adds Gopinath.