ICCA Rankings: USA ‘best performer’ in year of disruption

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Boston Harbour Boston, pictured, was 50th in the City Rankings. The USA came top. Photo Credit: Jimmy Woo on Unsplash

The USA performed better than any other country when it came to hosting international association meetings last year, according to the ICCA Rankings 2021, just published.

The country topped the Destination Performance Index (DPI) – a new algorithm added to the Rankings that acknowledges the impact of the pandemic on the meetings industry.

Of the 512 meetings planned in the USA, 32 were ‘unaffected’, 268 were held ‘virtually’ and 54 were converted to a ‘hybrid’ format – giving the USA a ‘business continuity’ tally of 354.  

That was 91 more than second place Spain, which was able to proceed with 263 of its 369 scheduled meetings, with 38 unaffected, 173 held virtually, and 52 as hybrid events.

Germany, France, and Italy make up the top five. Three Asian countries feature in the top 10 – Japan (joint seventh with Portugal), China (ninth) and Korea taking 10th spot. The UK was sixth.

The DPI is an aggregate of six different performance indicators – number of planned meetings, number that were unaffected, virtual meetings, hybrid meetings, digitalisation, and business continuity. In most cases, but not all, the higher the business continuity the higher the ranking.

ICCA acknowledges this is an imperfect science, however, as they were unable to ascertain how much involvement, if any, the host city had in developing meetings that switched to virtual.

Meanwhile the different approaches to Covid-19 restrictions, taken both regionally and on a country-by-country basis, means making fair comparisons between destinations is trickier than normal.

Of the three Asian countries in the top 10, for example, none features in the Top 10 rankings of unaffected meetings, which could be attributed to stricter Covid-19 policies in the region.

Vienna perches atop the City Rankings, the top 20 of which is dominated by European cities. Some 92 of the 112 meetings scheduled to take place in the Austrian capital took place in some capacity.

Lisbon comes a close second with a business continuity score of 91, Athens is in third place with 66, Barcelona (63) is in joint fourth with Singapore, which has a business continuity score of 75. Both Lisbon and Athens hosted more ‘unaffected’ meetings as a percentage of the whole than Singapore, hence why they were higher in the rankings despite a lower continuity score.

Continuing a long-term trend, while the USA is the top performing country, it barely makes a dent in the ICCA Rankings on a city basis, with only Boston scraping into the Top 50. This suggests an even distribution of association meetings are being held across a number of cities in the USA.

In a foreword to the report, ICCA chief executive Senthil Gopinath said: “As covid restrictions are generally being lifted around the world, we are looking back at the year 2021 while being mindful of the current economic and geopolitical issues at hand. Be it pandemics, geopolitical tensions or any other kind of disruptive global event, the years 2020 and 2021 have demonstrated that the only proper response to volatility is adaptability.”

He added: “Although we have yet to return to pre-pandemic numbers, we have gained significant ground on the road to full recovery. Further, we have transformed the meetings industry in the process. The technological advancements implemented out of necessity will serve our industry immensely in the years to come by preparing us for what some are already referring to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It is characterised by a fusion of technologies that will, ultimately, blur the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.”

The number of unaffected meetings across the Rankings came to less than 10 per cent.

James Lancaster
Written By
James Lancaster

AMI editor James Lancaster is a familiar face in the meetings industry and international association community. Since joining AMI in 2010, he has gained a reputation for asking difficult questions and getting lost in convention centres. Proofer, podcaster, and panellist - in his spare time, James likes to walk, read, listen to music, and drink beer.

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