Meeting Destination Rankings Are Back 

Skift Take

Paused during the pandemic, destination rankings are back. ICCA and Cvent unveiled their latest reports at IMEX Frankfurt.

Global tourism is performing better than it did before the Covid pandemic. Skift Research reports complete travel recovery as the current Travel Health Index is above the high water mark of 2019.

Meetings industry rankings that were not published during the Covid pandemic returned after being released this week at IMEX Frankfurt.

Destinations are once again competing for the top spots, and year-over-year ranking increases as part of their business development strategies.

Cvent Revives Destination Rankings 

According to Cvent senior vice president of sales Brian Ludwig, Cvent’s users fall around 60 to 65 percent on the corporate side. This makes Cvent’s destination rankings a valid indicator of where corporate planners, agencies, and third parties acting on their behalf are looking to book meetings.

Cvent released its list of top meeting destinations for the first time since the Covid pandemic brought the meetings and events industry to a halt. The rankings are compiled by analyzing more than $14 billion of group business value sourced through the Cvent Supplier Network in 2022. 

The criteria used to rank destinations are the number of total room nights booked; the number of unique electronic request-for-proposals (RFPs) sent to venues; the total value of the RFPs submitted; and the actual awarded value for meetings booked via the Cvent Supplier Network. 

Cvent does not share the weight of each criterion used, but at its press conference, Cvent vice president of international sales Graham Pope confirmed that if taking only one criterion, the rankings would be different.

Nashville is the big winner, ranking second this year after placing sixth in 2019 and seventh in the two previous years. San Diego also shot up in the rankings, moving to the number three spot in 2023, after being number seven in 2019. Orlando remains the number one ranked meeting destination in the U.S. after being named number one in the previous five editions and Las Vegas slid to number seven after always placing in the top three.

Cvent’s Top 10 Meeting Destinations in North America

  1. Orlando, Florida
  2. Nashville, Tennessee
  3. San Diego, California
  4. Las Vegas, Nevada
  5. Chicago, Illinois
  6. Atlanta, Georgia
  7. Dallas, Texas
  8. Austin, Texas
  9. Phoenix / Scottsdale, Arizona
  10. Denver, Colorado

In Europe, London is top once again. The city’s Deputy Mayor Rajesh Agrawal was at IMEX, highlighting the city’s focus on attracting meetings business. 

Barcelona, Spain, regained the second spot, and Paris, France, ranks third, an improvement on fourth in 2019 and sixth the year before, undoubtedly fueled by investment around the 2024 Summer Olympics. The only newcomer to the European top 10 is Lisbon, Portugal in number five, bumping Prague, Czech Republic, out of the top 10. Berlin dropped from the second spot in 2019 to sixth, while Madrid, Spain, climbed from sixth to fourth.

Top 10 Meeting Destinations in Europe

  1. London, UK
  2. Barcelona, Spain
  3. Paris, France
  4. Madrid, Spain
  5. Lisbon, Portugal
  6. Berlin, Germany
  7. Amsterdam, Netherlands
  8. Rome, Italy
  9. Frankfurt, Germany
  10. Munich, Germany

In the Asia Pacific ranking, Singapore, Singapore was named as a top meeting destination. It is followed by Sydney, Australia; Bangkok, Thailand; Seoul, Republic of Korea; and Melbourne, Australia. Dubai, U.A.E. tops the Middle East and Africa raking, followed by Istanbul, Turkey; Marrakesh, Morocco; Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.; and Cape Town, South Africa.

ICCA’s Association Meeting Rankings Tell a Different Story

The International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) also brought back its annual country and city rankings. “This is tremendous undertaking by our team, one that is most welcomed by our members because the ICCA Country – and City – Rankings always generates huge industry interest. It’s heartening to see the drive towards in-person meetings is once more very strong and we predict this trend will grow throughout the coming year,” said ICCA CEO Senthil Gopinath.

The U.S. topped the global country rankings with Spain, Italy, Germany, France, and the UK making the top 6 in this order and counting for over a third of all meetings in the database. Vienna, Austria, returned to the top city position, closely followed by Lisbon, Portugal. Paris, France; Barcelona, Spain; and Prague, Czech Republic, complete the top 5.

Looking at specific regions, Japan tops the Asia Pacific country ranking, followed by the Republic of Korea, and Australia, while Singapore tops the city ranking, followed by Seoul, Republic of Korea, and Taipei, Taiwan. 

Canada and Mexico trail the U.S. complete the top three for the North & Latin America country ranking, while the city ranking has Buenos Aires, Argentina; Montreal, QC, Canada; and Mexico City, Mexico as the top three. 

South Africa tops the country list in Africa, followed by Morocco and Rwanda, with Cape Town, South Africa; Kigali, Rwanda; and Cairo, Egypt, the top three cities. 

In the Middle East, the U.A.E. is far ahead in the lead, with Jordan and Saudi Arabia behind it in the country rankings. Abu Dhabi just takes the top spot over Dubai (both U.A.E) in the city rankings, with Amman, Jordan, in third place.

Data Still Reflects Covid Challenges

At a press conference Marco van Itterzon, senior manager of research and market analytics at ICCA, explained the new format is less focused on rankings. Itterzon also explained that the 2022 association meeting still includes a significant portion of canceled or postponed meetings due to the Covid pandemic. 

ICCA’s research team identified over 10,500 association-planned meetings that meet its criteria (meetings rotate between at least three countries, attract at least 50 participants, and held with a certain frequency). Of these, some 9,000 meetings (86 percent) took place mostly in-person only, some in a hybrid format. This is significantly lower than the 2019 total number of 13,254 meetings, 79 percent compared to planned meetings, and 68 percent when looking at meetings that took place. Clearly, association meetings are recovering, but there is a way to go.   

Government Meetings Ranking Coming Soon

ICCA also revealed more details of their digital transformation, new website and CRM platform, and member portal, all part of their new partnership with Simpleview. The ICCA Association database will have a new name, ICCA Business Intelligence, with improvements in user experience and managing of data in the back end.

ICCA also said it would release a new database of intergovernmental meetings in the fall featuring government meetings that rotate between at least two countries. The association has high hope for its new investment in data technology and how it can provide sustainable business opportunities to its members. “The Digital Transformation will make ICCA the go to source for all things meetings and events,” said Gopinath.