The Convention Industry Council, McLean, Va., expects to release this month or next a ground-breaking study that details the economic impact of meetings, conventions, exhibitions, and incentive travel in North America, says Mary Power, CIC's president and CEO. The report aims to determine total direct spending, number of people employed, and tax revenues generated as a result of meetings and events. It also breaks down spending, taxes, and employment by industry segment and looks at the effect on air travel and hotels. The idea, says Powers, is to present a big-picture view for those inside and outside the industry.

“We support so many other industries, and yet, no one can really look at a number [for the economic impact],” Power says. “The U.S. Department of Labor is now looking at the meetings industry as an entity for the development of jobs, so we are getting a little more recognition, but frankly, when you look at the GNP and you look at all the categories, we're not in there. But [segments of the industry show up] in three or four of the top categories.”

In 2003, Labor Department officials identified the hospitality industry as one of 12 sectors in the Bush administration's High Growth Job Training Initiative. The 2006-2007 edition of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook will include, for the first time, a statement on meeting and convention planning.

The CIC economic impact study culls data from various sources, including the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, Travel Industry Association of America, American Hotel and Lodging Association, Society for Incentive Travel Executives, and the ExPact survey, and is based on 2003 data. The last time CIC conducted such a study was in 1994, when total spending was estimated at $82.8 billion.