It is no surprise that the annual ICCA destination rankings have changed in format, quite radically, due of course to the effects of Covid.
All comparisons with previous years are pretty much redundant and the association went for the option of ‘reinventing’ its avidly awaited report on the international meetings market to show just how its members and associations had coped with the unprecedented situation.
As ICCA CEO Senthil Gopinath said in his introduction to the 2020 report: “You’ll find details on international meetings that were supposed to take place with insights into what became of Covid-19 affected meetings. We’ve added new categories to represent the full spectrum of solutions that event planners implemented in 2020; including virtual and hybrid meetings, postponement, cancellation, and relocation.
“The report delivers analysis on economic impact, revenue loss and other key parameters. An examination of the total expenditure in 2019 vs 2020 reveals the industry’s strong desire to return to face-to- face meetings. However, in the future, meetings are likely to include elements and best practices from virtual and hybrid events.
“You can further see that postponed meetings remain overall loyal to their original destination. In short, they’ll be back. And when they return, they are likely to entice larger audiences of delegates eager to meet face-to-face within the necessary safety protocols. Meanwhile, virtual and hybrid events have helped associations expand their audience and keep members engaged with their activities. These are all positive developments that can guide top-level decision makers within associations, sectors, and local governments.
“The 2020 ICCA Statistics Report not only provides a closer look at what was, it gives a clearer view of what is ahead. We at ICCA World steadfastly believe that the global association meetings industry is entering a brighter, stronger future.”
In total, 8,409 unique meetings were identified which were either held or planned in 2020. In last year’s report the number of unique events was 13,252. This significant drop-off can partially be explained by the fact that numerous event websites were taken offline prematurely or were never established in the first place as a consequence of the pandemic, making it difficult to identify these meetings for 2020. ICCA acknowledges that collecting the data has been challenging for members in 2020 due the effect of the lockdowns and redundancies. Response rates were, it says, “extremely low” compared to previous years. However, a report has been compiled and contains some strong statistics to digest.
The total number of events (8,409) was broken down by status and month and the results showed 44% postponed, 30% virtual, 14% cancelled, 9% unaffected, 2% hybrid, and 1% relocated.
As opposed to the number of meetings mentioned earlier, the number of attendees shows that Postponed (38%) and Virtual (37%) meetings make up a similar sized segment of the total number of attendees, signifying that, although the number of virtual meetings was lower than the number of postponed meetings, the number of attendees in these meetings was higher, as was the average number of attendees.
Affected percentage of meetings by size (2020)
The majority of smaller meetings (50-149 attendees) were either Postponed or Cancelled (56% combined) compared to 44% as seen in the largest meetings (3.000 and upwards). As a consequence, the percentage of Virtual meetings is highest in the largest meetings (48%).
The consequences of cancelling or postponing large meetings seems much higher compared to smaller meetings and perhaps more resources are available to these associations as they might have more members and therefore larger budgets in order to convert F2F meetings into virtual meetings.
In terms of total number of events per region, the Middle East had the lowest percentage of meetings Postponed and Cancelled (49% combined), which means that 51% of all meetings in 2020 took place, either Unaffected (19%), Virtual (29%), Relocated (2%) or Hybrid (1%); followed closely by North America with a combined continuation rate of 50% and the highest percentage of Virtual meetings (39%).
As for the total number of attendees by region, 51% of attendees attended unaffected, relocated, hybrid or virtual European meetings, the highest percentage of regions. Europe also has the highest percentage of attendees (44%) attending meetings originally planned in Europe, followed by North America with 43%.
Asia is clearly the front-runner with regards to Hybrid meetings with 80 meetings, representing 4% of the total number of events. This might be related to the approach from various Asian countries at the onset of the pandemic.
Middle East showed the highest percentage of unaffected meetings (16%) followed by Africa (11%). Perhaps this is linked to the fact that the Middle East and (North) Africa managed to effectively limit the initial spread of the coronavirus.
Total number of events by region and size (2020)
Half (50%) of all planned meetings in the Middle East had attendance of 500 and higher. This is far higher than all the other regions which are in the range 19% -32%. In three of the four highest categories the Middle East has the highest percentage of all regions. This might correlate with the hypothesis that larger meetings tend to continue in a virtual format more often than smaller meetings.
Total number of events by subject
Of all meetings planned for 2020, meetings with Technology subject matter had the highest percentage of Virtual (48%) and Hybrid (3%) meetings. It might be plausible to assume that associations organising technological meetings already had more infrastructure and/or know-how to host virtual/hybrid meetings compared to other associations. As a result of this high percentage of virtual/hybrid meetings, these technological associations had the highest continuation rate, with unaffected (9%), virtual (48%), relocated (1%) and hybrid (3%) events adding up to a total of 61%.
Behind the technological associations, associations which organise meetings with Education subject matter had the second highest percentage of virtual meetings with 32%. Like the Technological sector, the Education sector might already be accustomed to virtual meetings prior to the pandemic.
On the other hand, associations organising meetings with Science subject matter had the highest cancellation/postponement rate, with respectively 11% and 55%, totalling up to 66%.
Hybrid & Virtual meetings
The year 2020 can be seen as the catalyst for the inevitable emergence of Hybrid and Virtual meetings, as a significant amount of associations made virtue out of necessity by converting 2,648 (32%) regular meetings into 143 hybrid (2%) and 2,505 virtual (30%) meetings. This had a significant impact on the economic output of these meetings as hybrid and virtual meetings have a limited impact on the destination itself with regards to travel cost, accommodation, food/drink and other local expenditures. Virtualisation of meetings also has an impact on the number of attendees and the registration fees.
The year 2019 resulted in 13,252 unique association meetings representing a total estimated expenditure of $10,817m. Clearly the Covid-19 pandemic has decimated the economic output for the year 2020, with 8,409 meetings planned of which 3,484 actually took place: unaffected (763), virtual (2.505), relocated (73) and hybrid (143).