WHEN BUSINESS IS BOOMING
Nearly 500 million business trips by domestic and international travelers were taken in the United States in 2019—a number that had been steadily increasing over the past 10 years.
These travelers spent a total of $348 billion on travel-related goods and services, including $97 billion on lodging and $73 billion on air transportation.
“Business travel has a disproportionate effect on the overall U.S. travel industry, and our economy. Even though these travelers account for only 20% of trips, they account for 30% of spending—and nearly 40% of lodging and air revenue,” says Roger Dow, president and CEO of U.S. Travel Association. “Unfortunately, business travel, meetings and events have only barely begun to rebuild. The industry and our country cannot fully recover without these critical segments.”
Estimates suggest that business travel spending declined 70% in 2020. Spending related to meetings, conferences and events fell by 77% in 2020 to just $32 billion.
THE U.S. TRAVEL INDUSTRY IS TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS
The recently formed Let’s Meet There Coalition, a group of leaders in the travel and meetings and events industries, and the Meetings Mean Business Coalition, which was created in 2009, are working to address the challenges associated with return of this segment.
“We know that government policy will play a role in the return of business travel,” said Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs and policy at U.S. Travel Association. “In the U.S., each state has different gathering restrictions. One of our main points is that there is a distinct difference between social or mass gatherings and professional meetings and events, which adhere to healthy and safe gathering guidelines.”
Barnes says that clearly differentiating between the two is just one of the areas the coalitions are working toward with the U.S. government.
“We are also working with the industry to capture meetings and events that are safely being held through the meetsafe.travel website," says Barnes. "We plan to share these examples with the U.S. government to make it clear in-person events can happen in a healthy and safe way.”
Webinars and other virtual events were commonplace last year, and many believe hybrid meetings are here to stay. However, according to Dow, “Nothing can replace face-to-face meetings. They are critically important to making deals happen and building relationships. Just look at IPW, which in previous years had driven $5.5 billion in future travel to the United States. Virtual options just cannot replace the in-person connections.”
Let's Meet There In Action
Building the case by releasing white papers currently in development on how professional meetings can be done in a healthy and safe way, and how the return of in-person events will help rebuild America’s workforce
Engaging the U.S. government to modify the definition of mass gatherings
Making the case at the state and local level, as well as to business executives, by demonstrating how professional meetings and events can be conducted safely and the role this segment plays in the recovery of communities
Developing a professional meetings and events framework that provides a layered approach to holding safe events