by Sarah J.F. Braley | August 01, 2008

chartThe 2008 Meetings Market Report revealed a convention sector that was growing and healthy, and an association sector that hosted more total meetings but spent less money to do so and was playing to slightly fewer attendees. The number of conventions rose to 13,700, 8 percent over 2005; the number of convention attendees increased 4 percent to 19.7 million, and expenditures on these events rose 3 percent to $34.6 billion.

As for association meetings other than conventions, the total number of events rose 8 percent to 227,000, while the number of attendees fell by just 1 percent to 37.5 million, and the dollars spent declined 9 percent to $38.1 billion.

Annual meetings

Supporting the growth in conventions, associations spent $30.4 billion on their major gatherings, while their attendees contributed more than $4 billion. Those delegates spent an average of $1,590 per convention, up 9 percent from the $1,460 they laid out in 2005. The associations themselves spent an average of $306,200 in 2007 on conventions.

Most of the associations that employed the planners surveyed held a major convention (90 percent). The bulk of these were held annually (75 percent). A much smaller number (13 percent) said their organizations held major conventions twice a year or even every other year (5 percent). The largest piece of the convention expenditure pie (35 percent) went to food and beverage, while hotels accounted for 18 percent.

October, once again, was the most popular month to hold a convention, as 18 percent of the association planners said their organizations scheduled their major events then. November came in second (12 percent), followed by April and September (10 percent each).

As with 2003 and 2005, about a quarter (24 percent) of respondents said their most recent conventions were held in the South Atlantic region of the United States (Florida; Georgia, Maryland; North Carolina; South Carolina; Virginia; and Washington, D.C.). The Pacific states (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington) were next, with 15 percent of planners placing their most recent convention in the region, followed by the Mountain states (Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah) and the East North Central region (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Wisconsin), with 14 percent each.

Hotels were the preferred site for conventions, cited by 56 percent of the sample, while 32 percent used convention centers and 12 percent chose “other.” Trade shows were part of the plan for 65 percent of the gatherings, taking up an average of 56,000 square feet, the same amount as was reported in the 2006 study.


Convention attendees most often slept at downtown hotels, as reported by 62 percent of association planners, followed by nongolf resorts (24 percent), suburban hotels (15 percent), suite hotels (12 percent), airport hotels (8 percent), golf resorts (7 percent), gaming facilities (5 percent), residential conference centers (3 percent), other facilities (2 percent) and cruise ships (1 percent). Two percent of the sample said some of their events did not use overnight accommodations. Not surprisingly, convention attendees paid more for their rooms in 2007, their bills averaging $172 per night, an increase of 19 percent over the $145 delegates were paying two years earlier.

Association planners reported taking a bit longer to put together conventions in 2007. They took an average of 20.9 months from the beginning of the planning process to the selection of the facility, and 39.1 months, overall, from the start of the planning process until the event was held. Those surveyed two years ago reported that planning a convention took 33.5 months.