Meetings Industry Continues Upward Trajectory

Kentucky Derby Horses racing

Skift Take

April is historically a flat month for the meetings industry. Not this year.

Meetings volume grew in the industry year-over-year in April, with Nashville experiencing an impressive 38% growth. Las Vegas also continued its steady upward climb with 22.8% year-over-year growth. This is according to Knowland, an event intelligence and hospitality sales solutions provider.

New York’s meeting business grew by 20.2%. Seattle by 15.2%. Tampa-St. Petersburg by 11.1%.

“The historical trend in the meeting industry for April tends to remain relatively flat or even exhibit a slight decline. Therefore, witnessing substantial growth in Nashville during what is traditionally considered a slower month is a positive indicator for the industry. We anticipate this upward trajectory to persist into the mid-summer period when events usually slow in the U.S.,” says Jeff Bzdawka, CEO at Knowland.

Music City’s Strategic Meetings Plan Has Worked

Nashville’s rise in popularity as a meeting destination is attributed to a strategic plan 20 years in the making. The Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. (NCVC) has marketed the destination as Music City and meeting and event planners have taken note. 

“As we continue to attract leisure travel, we are also pleased that business travel and conventions are thriving in Music City. Last month, the group demand grew significantly with an 8 percent increase in room nights compared to April 2023,” says Deana Ivey, president and CEO of the NCVC. “We’re fortunate Nashville has two convention centers, a healthy mix of hotels — from budget-friendly to high-end properties — and a walkable downtown area with world-class entertainment.” 

Ivey adds, “Nashville is also very accessible with one of the fastest-growing airports in North America with more than 75 percent of the U.S. population within a 2-hour flight.” 

Louisville Breaks Records 

In secondary markets, Louisville, KY continues to break records as its meetings and events grew by 188% in April, reports Knowland.

Louisville will be in the spotlight May 20-22 as it hosts the 2024 MPI World Education Congress, the association’s signature event for meeting professionals. 

A new destination breaking into the top five high-growth secondary market list is Maui Island that grew by 87.1%. That is followed by Greensboro-Winston Salem, NC with 79.7% growth. Then southern Michigan by 78.5%. And Florida Keys by 72.8%.

One of the reasons for the growth in secondary markets has to do with costs.

Kentucky Derby Sets the Stage

Iconic events have contributed to Louisville’s popularity. “April marks the start of Bourbon City’s two-week Kentucky Derby season,” says Doug Bennett, the executive vice president of Louisville Tourism. “April’s Kentucky Derby Festival events enjoyed great weather and set the stage for May’s main event, the milestone 150th running of the Kentucky Derby.”

In addition, the average space used for meetings in the Top 25 markets was 3,768 sq. ft., and secondary markets were at 3,684 sq. ft. Average attendees also grew slightly to 133 in the Top 25, while secondary markets averaged 127 attendees.

Nashville, a favorite meeting spot in April, had an average space use of 3,885 sq ft for 131 average attendees. National associations were the key driver with events such as the Association of Physical Plant Administrators.

“We’re hearing from our customers that group continues to be a leading source of revenue growth,” says Bzdawka.