A group of meetings and travel industry organizations have issued a report recommending that the United Nations Tourism Satellite Account be extended to measure the global economic impact of the meetings industry.

The Tourism Satellite Account provides information about the economic contribution of tourism to gross domestic product, and measures the expenditure on tourism by domestic and international tourists, as well as the size of the industry, including its contribution to GDP and employment.

The report, Measuring the Economic Importance of the Meetings Industry: Developing a Tourism Satellite Account Extension, was commissioned by the World Tourism Organization, Meeting Professionals International, the International Congress and Convention Association, and Reed Travel Exhibitions.

“For too long the meetings industry has been the ‘poor relation,’ but with no consistent data, there has never been a conclusive means of convincing the world of its huge economic merits,” said Tom Nutley, Chairman of RTE, in a press statement accompanying the report’s release. “This is a huge, evolving project and it will not happen overnight. But we now have a basis to go forward and secure the future of the meetings industry as an important economic contributor.”

According to the report, one of the problems with trying to measure the economic impact of the meetings industry is the lack of “credible and consistent” data. Accurate measurement standards have to be developed, and the information will have to be collected by national entities, which means, the report states, that meetings organizations and associations will have to work closely with government agencies to identity and collect the appropriate data.

A steering committee has been formed to push the report’s recommendations with industry associations, government organizations, and businesses. The WTO has already put forward a proposal for a new International Standard Industrial Classification (an international system for classifying economic data according to fields of production) called “Convention and Trade Show Organizers.”

Another key step will be the implementation of a universal vocabulary so that terms like “meeting aims,” “venue,” and “meeting size,” all have the same meaning on a global basis.

Other issues the steering committee will be dealing with include getting an agreement on the scope of the meeting industry; coming up with an international standard of measurement; and convincing national meetings associations to support the idea of a standard industry measurement.