Georgia’s built for face-to-face business meetings

Events taking place here are significant to our state and national economy.

One of the most powerful tools at the disposal of leaders in government and business – the “it” factor that can move the needle, spark innovation or close a deal – is ensuring that employees, constituents and colleagues are participating in face-to-face meetings and events.

Meetings and events matter to Georgia, and they make a tangible difference to the people who travel to and within the state to attend them. Meetings drive local economies and businesses of all sizes, while simultaneously powering other industries important to Georgia. They spur new ideas, form deeper business connections and fuel individual professional growth.

In 2022, meetings and events generated nearly $100 billion in travel spending nationwide, which supported 600,000 American jobs. Here in Georgia, professional meetings attracted 5.5 million overnight domestic travelers and drove $2.6 billion in business travel spending statewide in 2021. That spending directly supports thousands of jobs as well as small and local businesses throughout Georgia.

Mark Jaronski

Credit: contributed

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Credit: contributed

Atlanta, for example, is home to the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC), the fourth largest convention center in the U.S. and a world-class facility for corporate meetings, conventions, exhibitions and other events. When people attend a meeting or conference at GWCC, they also stay in area hotels, eat in restaurants, utilize local transportation and shop at local businesses. Today, we know more people are mixing business and leisure. As a result, arts and cultural events within communities benefit, too.

According to the most recent GWCC Economic Impact Study, in fiscal year 2022, GWCC welcomed more than 600,000 visitors who generated $687.8 million in economic impact to Georgia. Meetings and events at this facility drove $358.7 million in direct visitor spending, supported 7,851 jobs, generated $41 million in state tax and fee revenues and contributed $29.7 million in tax revenues to local governments.

This April, GWCC will host the world’s largest aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) event, Aviation Week Network’s MRO Americas. With Georgia being home to the world’s busiest airport, more than 800 aerospace companies – including Delta Air Lines, Lockheed Martin and Gulfstream Aerospace – and more than 22,000 MRO employees, this trade show’s location in Atlanta makes attending the conference appealing for the aviation MRO community. Not only will MRO Americas impact our state and local tourism economies by bringing an expected 15,000 registered attendees, it will also benefit the state’s robust aerospace industry by driving innovation, growth and valuable business connections.

Beyond the broader economic impact, meetings bring numerous intangible benefits – things you won’t always see on a spreadsheet, but are critical to sustained business success.

First, the strongest business relationships are forged through face-to-face interactions. While virtual meetings may be convenient, data shows that they are much less effective in developing lasting relationships. According to a study from Forbes Insights, face-to-face requests are 34 times more effective than emailed ones. Our own experience at the Georgia Department of Economic Development backs this up.

The same study found that in-person meetings matter to the C-Suite as well. In fact, 77% of executives consider business travel essential, and 43% of business travelers say reduced business travel is negatively impacting their company’s financial performance. There is a significant competitive advantage to getting workers back on the road.

While established business travelers understand these benefits firsthand, there is a younger generation of professionals who have yet to experience the full benefit of business travel.

Workers who came of age during the peak of the remote office ascent need these experiences to expand their professional networks, learn new skills and generate growth opportunities for themselves and their employers.

Simply put, we’re built for face-to-face communication and the environment that professional meetings provide. The subtle gesture or verbal cue can convey more information than any lengthy email or virtual exchange. Government and business leaders – and Georgia and its tourism industry workforce – stand to gain so much just from the simple act of attending and hosting in-person meetings.

The evidence is clear: Meetings matter to Georgia. In 2023, let’s get down to business.

Mark Jaronski is chief marketing officer, Georgia Department of Economic Development.

04/07/2020 - Atlanta, Georgia  - The exterior of the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Tuesday, April 7, 2020. State officials are quietly preparing to establish three large emergency hospitals across Georgia, including one at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, as they race to open more beds ahead of an expected surge in coronavirus cases.  (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

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Credit: Alyssa Pointer