It’s been more than a year since in-person meetings and events were abruptly suspended in Rhode Island, causing a ripple effect of lost business throughout the state’s tourism and hospitality industry. As the industry’s recovery begins to take shape, the Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau (PWCVB) recently launched Meet in RI, a campaign that asks local companies to commit to hosting a future meeting, event or convention in Rhode Island.
“Rhode Island-based companies can help jump-start our industry’s return to business by completing the Meet in RI pledge and committing to keeping their next few meetings or events local,” said Kristen Adamo, PWCVB president and CEO.
Members of Rhode Island’s corporate community are encouraged to sign the online pledge and commit to hold at least one meeting, convention or trade show in Rhode Island between 2022–2024. The hope is they’ll schedule a smaller gathering, such as a board meeting or office retreat at a hotel within the next year or two, followed by a larger event that might occupy hotel ballrooms or even space at the Rhode Island Convention Center as business travel picks up.
Businesses that pledge to Meet in RI will receive assistance from the PWCVB Sales & Services team, providing research of hotel availability and rates, recommendations for off-site venues and free-time activities, site inspections, and any additional needs to make the event a success.
In-person business meetings and events are the building blocks of recovery for American cities. According to U.S. Travel, prior to the pandemic, they supported 5.9 million American jobs and spurred hundreds of billions of dollars in annual revenue. In-person business meetings and events were tied to more direct jobs than many large manufacturing sectors, including machinery, food, auto and chemicals. They sustained more jobs than the telecommunications and oil and gas extraction industries. Every dollar spent on in-person meetings and events generated an additional $1.60 for the U.S. economy — driving the kind of revenue growth we are hungry for now in our states and cities.
In 2019, 250 meetings, conventions and sporting events booked by the PWCVB took place. In 2020, only 44 meetings, conventions and sporting events took place from January through the first half of March. This remarkable loss of business led to a 75.3% reduction in direct spending from $74.9 million in 2019 to $18.4 million in 2020. “Direct spending” is an estimation of what a group will spend while attending an event and includes several factors such as lodging, transportation, food and beverage, venue rental and recreational spending.
Over the same time period, there was a 74% decline in hotel room nights utilized and a 67.4% decline in people attending events. Fewer people attending events directly resulted in less business for local restaurants, shops, transportation and other recreational activities.
The Meet in RI campaign has received additional support from community partners Johnson & Wales University and Partnership for Rhode Island. These organizations recognize the important role Rhode Islanders play in supporting their friends, family and neighbors in the hospitality industry’s long road to recovery.
“Johnson & Wales is proud to support the Meet in RI initiative, and we encourage our state’s corporate and university leaders to join us in pledging to book a meeting in Rhode Island between 2022 and 2024,” said Johnson & Wales Chancellor Mim L. Runey, LP.D. “As a major employer and an important economic partner for the city, state and region, we have a well-earned reputation as a global leader in key industries such as food, hospitality and tourism. With a more promising long-term future ahead, we are excited for the opportunities that await our students as they graduate positioned to lead in their chosen field.”
The long-term future does indeed look good, with a recent survey by APCO Insight finding that Americans working from home due to COVID-19 are eager to return to in-person meetings and conventions. The survey finds that even after adapting to the new digital workplace, 81% of professionals who attended in-person meetings and conventions before the pandemic miss doing so and would be just as likely — if not more likely — to attend in-person conferences, conventions, trade shows and other business events in the future.
However, as the meetings and events industry begins its road to recovery, it’s in need of an immediate boost. Meet in RI is a straightforward and impactful way for local corporate executives and decision-makers to invest in the future of the industry as it works to bounce back to pre-pandemic business.
“As meetings and events begin to once again take place in the Ocean State, it’s a great time for our local business partners to extend their support however they can,” said Tom Giordano, executive director of Partnership for Rhode Island. “Our partnership with the PWCVB helps to get this extraordinary campaign before some of the state’s largest corporations.”
For more information about Meet in RI or to pledge to hold your own meeting in Rhode Island, please visit www.MeetInRI.com.