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The Meetings Industry as a Driver of the Economy Development

May 29, 18:53 UTC+3
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There is no debate that the business meetings industry is a driving economic force facilitating new projects and fostering business ideas, generating profits and creating jobs, stimulating infrastructure and boosting fiscal revenues. As for Russia, the sector is playing a minor role in the national economy, with a global share of less than 1%.

According to the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), every year over 40 million events take place worldwide, with 2 billion people in attendance. ICCA’s 2016 ranking was dominated by the US, while Germany, the UK, France and Spain occupied the rest of the top 5 spots. Russia only ranked 42nd. The global market volume is estimated at USD 1.154 trillion.

  • The US spends around USD 300 billion on the event industry, which is 25% of the total market volume and 0.8% of the country’s GDP. USD 88 billion is collected as tax revenue. The American event industry employs over 1.7 million people, or 1% of the economically active population.
  • China is second with USD 127.2 billion in spending (11% of the global volume and 0.5% of the GDP).
  • Russia's spending stands at USD 7.8 billion, accounting for as little as 0.7% of the global volume and 0.2% of the GDP.

The most rapid growth of the business meetings industry is observed in emerging markets, which marks a shift from the US and Europe towards the Asia Pacific. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council‘s projections, the growth rate over the next 10 years will amount to 9.5% for China, 8% for Hong Kong, 7.4% for Cambodia and 7.2% for India. As for the US and Europe, these will stay within 3% and 5%, respectively.

In 2016, St. Petersburg and Moscow ranked 88th and 94th in ICCA’s top of the most attractive meetings destinations (below Zagreb, Vilnius, Bucharest and Ljubljana). The first five spots were taken by Paris, Vienna, Barcelona, Berlin and London.

The country’s economic situation reflects upon the events industry, so Russian geopolitical struggles and economic downturn have led to lower performance of the domestic meetings market. As the economy recovers and gets government support, this market may rival industry leaders. St. Petersburg in particular boasts great potential in terms of business tourism, having been honoured as the Best City for Business and Event Tourism in Russia and the CIS by the Business Traveller magazine in 2016.

As per the Strategy for the Socio-Economic Development of the Northwestern Federal District through 2020, St. Petersburg is to hit the top 20 globally and top 10 in Europe among the cities that are most popular for congresses, respectively.

To that end, the following is implemented:

  • The programme of the St. Petersburg government compensates up to 50% of the total documented expenses of companies for participating in fairs and exhibitions.
  • In late 2016, a plan for developing MICE (meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions) tourism was approved.

The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) is the city’s major business event. In 2016, it was attended by 12,000 people from 133 countries.

The Russian business meetings industry is highly centralised. Various estimates place half of all events in Moscow, which has around 30 state-of-the-art congress venues. St. Petersburg accounts for another 15–20%, and about a third is hosted by the rest of the Russian cities.

St. Petersburg, Moscow and other cities need to tackle a number of urgent challenges in order to unlock their potential in the business events industry:

  • Update the current regulatory framework that is too vague on MICE matters;
  • Deliver relevant infrastructure;
  • Set up an effective coordination and government support framework;
  • Develop a uniform methodology to assess the socio-economic and fiscal impact;
  • Establish a multi-tier system for training, re-training and professional development of skilled staff.
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