‘Measuring the Economic Importance of the Meetings Industry’, commissioned by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) will be published this summer.The report also commissioned by Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE) , Meetings Professionals International (MPI) and ICCA, is believed to be the most significant step yet in building a more sustained future for the global industry.
Authors of the report are Associate Professor Margaret Deery PhD, Principal Research Fellow and Prof. Leo Jago, Deputy CEO and Director of Research at the Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre, Australia.
The document - which already has the support of leading industry associations around the world - is expected have the widest possible distribution among industry associations, industry professionals and the media. It examines how a new statistical instrument, the Tourism Satellite Account (TSA) can be used to identify economic contribution of tourism related industries
Final editing of the report is being conducted by a TSA specialist. A number of amendments and clarification issues will need to be made to the TSA actual presentation format to ensure that it matches the demands of the meetings industry. The task force members from the UNWTO, RTE, MPI and ICCA meet in June to discuss how the report will be available and to address some of the issues raised in the report.
The document cites many challenges ahead. Antonio Massieu, head of the UNWTO Department of Statistics and Economic Measurement of Tourism and Coordinator of the Department`s team of consultants said: “It is important when quoting the contribution of an industry or sector, such as tourism, to an economy, to be clear whether the contribution includes an indirect contribution or not. This is particularly relevant in discussing measurement of the contribution of the meetings industry. If such a measure is based on the TSA, then the result will only show the direct contribution and further analysis is needed to calculate the indirect contribution as well.”
Tom Nutley, Chairman of Reed Travel Exhibitions who introduced the idea of using TSA to take the industry on to a new chapter in its history three years ago, asserted that “this is a serious and extensively researched move to provide the meetings industry with the kind of profiling already enjoyed by the tourism industry and represents what could be the industry’s most important development for many years.”
“Until now, the meetings industry has always been the poor relation, lumped in with other statistics, but with no means of expressing its true and considerable value to a country’s GDP. This step can only happen if UNWTO member States and the industry as a whole work together. There is a great deal of work ahead of us, but the rewards for the meetings industry are high.”
Didier Scaillet, Director of European Operations and Global Development for MPI said that one of the first major steps was to gain agreement for a universal industry definition.
“One of the problems at the moment which has been frequently mentioned but never resolved is the number of different definitions used within the industry, resulting in confusion. If we are to have clarity, then it is imperative that we adopt the same industry description, which is used every time. The ‘Meetings Industry’, which already has the backing of key industry associations, represents supply and a smaller dimension of the demand side.”
“Clearly this will take some time and may even mean that some organisations will have to change their name to match the new progressive industry profile,” underlined Didier Scaillet.
Tuula Lindberg, ICCA Past President, who with Didier Scaillet attended the UNWTO International Conference last year when the project was presented (“The Tourism Satellite Account: Understanding Tourism and Designing Strategies”), said that although the industry knew that the economic contribution was significant, there are several problems with measurement.
“The current collection of data demonstrates an enormous diversity with many inconsistencies,” she said. “At present, the data is created for different purposes using different methodologies and so it is impossible to compare. What is more, the quality of the data collection is often not up to the strict statistical standards and therefore at the highest government level, cannot be considered as totally reliable evidence.”