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Government meetings support more than 340,000 jobs, driving $24.4 billion in economic impact.
Travel is a major economic driver. In 2011, direct traveler spending was $813 billion, which supported 7.5 million American jobs and generated $124 billion in taxes. That’s $2.2 billion a day, $92.8 million an hour, $1.5 million a minute and $25,778 a second. Click on one of the tabs below to learn more about the travel effect on our nation’s economy.
Impact in Perspective
A new study by Rockport Analytics finds that government spending on meetings totaled $17.9 billion in 2011, the most recent comprehensive data set available. That expenditure resulted in a total economic contribution of more than $24 billion to the U.S. economy — 34 percent beyond associated costs — including a $2.5 billion infusion into state and local governments and support for $14.5 billion in wages via 343,800 U.S. jobs.
Breaking the data down further, researchers found that the economic impact of government meetings is more than double the costs for meetings travel. Just more than half of meetings spending, $10.9 billion, went to travel expenses, with the balance accounted for by venue, service and operations expenses — costs incurred regardless of location.
These calculations don’t include immeasurable long-term economic gains realized through private sector delegates engaging with government agencies in meetings. The study indicates that 62 percent of business executives report positive ROI from attending meetings where government employees are present, compared to just 12 percent claiming a negative return.
And while both government and the private sector benefit from these conferences, the government maximizes its return by more tightly controlling costs. Private-sector spending on meetings totals nearly 13 times government spending and is more than double government outlays on a per-employee basis.
Knowledge & Productivity
While there are many functions to meetings and conferences, including sales and procurement, agency supervisors and business executives agree that most importantly, government meetings build and disseminate critical knowledge.
In a survey of 258 private sector business owners or executives at the VP level or higher, 74 percent report their companies benefit from knowledge transfer at meetings where government personnel are present, and 43 percent indicate that such meetings provide information not available anywhere else.
Eighty-four percent of private sector leaders also report that government meetings have a moderate to high impact on generating industry-relevant ideas and insights, while more than 35 percent report these meetings have only a low impact on sales leads and conversions.
Similarly, among supervisors, more than half point to knowledge transfer, employee development and bridging information gaps as the most essential benefits of government meetings and conferences.
In January 2013, in anticipation of sequestration, the U.S. Defense Department canceled the 2013 Military Health System Conference just weeks before its planned mid-February dates. The conference is typically attended by 3,000+ leaders from the armed services and partner agencies, in part for its low-cost workshops providing required continuing medical education (CME).
Researchers found that while canceling the event cut government spending by $3.9 million in operations and traveler expenditures, the move actually increases government costs by $813,00 when accounting for $1.2 million in lost revenues and at least $3.6 million for would-be attendees to obtain an equal amount of CME credits through other sources.
As surprising as that calculus may be, it doesn’t account for the lost value of networking and sharing of best practices in programs implementation and administration. Similarly, the decision by NASA and the U.S. Air Force not to participate in the 2013 National Space Symposium (NSS) has, as expressed by high-level leaders, far-reaching impact difficult to quantify.
As the premier annual gathering of more than 9,000 stakeholders in the global space industry, NSS plays a critical role in diplomacy, solving industry challenges, knowledge sharing and more, bringing together leaders in the public and private sectors from roughly 30 nations.
Experts surveyed on the government pullout indicated that not only will agencies now need to spend as much or more on transient travel throughout the year — replacing meetings that would have taken place at NSS — the U.S. absence from the conference undermines related commercial productivity and jeopardizes the United States’ position in the international space community.