U.S. Travel Association believes professional meetings and events (PME) suffer from being lumped in with other gatherings—and is working to change that.

Relying on the most current travel-sector data from The Ohio State University and Tourism Economics, U.S. Travel Association has kicked off its “Let’s Meet There” campaign, unveiled at MPI’s WEC 2021, to further propel the comeback of PMEs.

What the Studies Say

Covid restrictions and disjointed reopenings across the United States and abroad will slow full recovery of the travel industry until at least 2024, according to Tourism Economics.

While domestic leisure travel is anticipated to reach 99 percent of its prepandemic levels in 2022, business-related travel is not expected to recover for an additional two years. Currently, about 35 percent of U.S. businesses are engaging in business travel.

While some meetings are back, and the CDC has lifted restrictions for fully vaccinated people, it “continues to express concern about large gatherings,” states the Ohio State white paper, which notes that while CDC defines large gatherings as “events that bring together many people from multiple households in a private or public space,” a distinction should be drawn between PMEs and other large, informal gatherings, such as sporting events, festivals and concerts.

“PMEs have the additional advantage of being structured and well-organized large gatherings where mitigation factors can be enforced to protect the health and safety of those in attendance,” the document avers.

Indeed, scientific modeling by Exhibitions and Conferences Alliance and Epistemix found that in-person PMEs pose minimal risk of Covid-19 transmission to attendees: a mere .001 percent, to be precise.

What’s to Be Done

According to U.S. Travel, drawing this distinction between professional meetings and events, and other gatherings will protect PMEs in the future or in the event the current battle against the pandemic necessitates a resumption of restrictions.

Relying on guidance from the CDC and Journal of the American Medical Association Network and Health Affairs, Ohio State makes several key recommendations, including continued masking, prepackaged meals and promotion of healthy lifestyle behaviors among attendees that can boost the immune system.

“A thriving travel industry—and the broader U.S. economy—are dependent on the return of business travel and PMEs. Americans are eager to reconnect with colleagues in person via business meetings, conferences and conventions, and these scientific analyses and recommendations make clear it is possible and safe to do so,” says Roger Dow, president and CEO of U.S. Travel Association. “A consistent approach to reopening PMEs, including guidance from the CDC that differentiates PMEs from other large gatherings, is critical to infusing confidence and optimism into this key sector of our economy.”