Second-Tier Cities Dominate Event Volume Growth in February

Sunset over downtown Louisville, Kentucky as seen from the Ohio River

Skift Take

Second-tier cities experienced the greatest growth in meetings and events in February with Louisville, KY. leading the pack.

​​According to data services provider Knowland, meetings and events held in Louisville, KY, grew by 67.2% in February compared to last year. This high year-over-year event volume growth was common to two more regions, which Knowland considers secondary markets. Colorado Springs, CO, experienced 66.8% growth fueled by education gatherings and Greensboro-Winston Salem, N.C., grew 65.7%.

Knowland’s data shows that national and state associations as well as manufacturing drove Louisville’s impressive performance. South Wisconsin, WI, with 48.2% growth, and Myrtle Beach, S.C., with 33% growth, are also secondary markets experiencing significant growth.

Growth in First-Tier Cities

In the top 25 markets, the Tampa-St. Petersburg, FL. area led in February growth with 20% year-over-year growth. Denver, CO (16.7%) and Boston, MA (15%) came in second and third. National associations and technology groups led in four of the five top industries fueling gatherings. Wrapping up the top five in terms of growth are Nashville, TN (14.7%) and Las Vegas, NV (11.5%).

The mainstay of the market’s event volume is national association, healthcare, and technology industry events, which have been consistent since February 2023.

“For January, Tampa-St. Petersburg’s growth was only 5.2%, so February delivered a healthy increase. What is interesting are the industry segments that showed substantial growth over last year,” said Katrina Pruitt-Andrews, Knowland’s vice president of marketing. Those industries are environmental services, agriculture, data/research, and marketing/advertising, which all grew more than 200%.

The average space used for meetings in the top 25 markets was 3,507 square feet, while secondary markets were slightly less at 2,890 square feet. The average size of meetings in the Top 25 markets was 124 attendees, while secondary markets averaged 118 attendees.

Tampa-St. Petersburg Riding High

Judging by this data, Florida’s travel advisories, which some civil rights groups have implemented, are not negatively impacting the Tampa-St. Petersburg region.

“We are honored to be recognized as the leader in meetings and events growth in the top 25 market category. This achievement isn’t by chance, rather the result of our team’s commitment to fostering strong, sustainable connections with past, present, and potential meetings professionals,” said Santiago C. Corrada, president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay.

He added that a convention center expansion and private investment continue to increase offerings and attract new events. “Visit Tampa Bay’s relational versus transactional approach, coupled with our ability to welcome everyone with open hearts and minds, has catapulted us into one our highest years of convention success,” Corrada added.