Double-digit growth for Italian congress tourism

Jul 2, 2024

In line with the favorable trend in leisure, Italian congress tourism is also experiencing a very positive season: in fact, the number of congresses and business events held in Italy is increasing.

The picture emerges from the Italian Congress and Events Observatory – OICE, the research promoted by the Italian meetings industry association Federcongressi&eventi and carried out by the University Cattolica del Sacro Cuore Graduate School of Economics and International Relations – ASERI.

The tenth edition of the industry study that annually monitors trends in the sector was presented today in Rome at the headquarters of ENIT- National Tourism Agency. According to the research, a total of 340,057 events were held in Italy in 2023, registering an increase of +12 percent compared to 2022. There were 27,152,890 participants (+28% compared to 2022) and 41,835,932 attendees (+31.9% compared to 2022).

Therefore, all the main indexes have double-digit growth clearly indicating that, after the stop due to Covid19, companies have returned to investing in events, such as conventions, meetings and product launches, as a marketing and loyalty tool, and associations, especially medical-scientific ones, in congresses capable of spreading and promoting knowledge and innovation. The state of good health of Italian congress tourism is demonstrated by the rate of increase in congresses and events, which in 2023 was 12 percent, thus triple the annual average of 4.1 percent of pre-Covid19 years, and especially by the attendance generated by events of more than one day, which grew by more than 50 percent compared to 2022. The outlook for the current year is also positive, in terms of growth in both the number of events and revenue.

“Italian MICE is enjoying good health and it is in this trend that a phase of profound change in the meetings industry is taking place,” comments Federcongressi&eventi President Gabriella Gentile. “Events and congresses today have increasingly high quality and therefore require venues that are advanced in terms of services and technologies, as well as trained and constantly upskilled staff. At the same time, large tourist flows and the consequent increase in hotel occupancy rates in destinations historically with a MICE vocation is pushing organizers to choose venues outside the more established circuits for events and congresses, consequently favoring not only the deseasonalization but also the relocation of tourism”.

Congresses and events in Italy: where they are held and who holds them The majority of congresses and events, 59%, is held in the North, 24.7% in Central Italy, 10.2% in the South, and 6.1% on the Islands.

In terms of event venues, convention hotels remain the most used. In fact, 77.8% of total events were held there. Convention centers and convention fair venues hosted 3.1% of events: they are the type of venue that has grown the most since 2022 in both number of days, +33.9%, and attendance, +54.7%. Non-hotel historic residences (abbeys, castles, ancient inns and farmhouses, historic palaces, villas, etc.) were venues for 2.5% of events.

Regarding promoters, companies organized the majority of events, 66.3%, 13.5 points higher than in the previous survey, while associations remained the second largest promoter with 22.3% of events.

Finally, in terms of the origin of participants, with the restrictions due to the pandemic having ceased, international events (i.e., with participants coming in a significant percentage from abroad) and national events (with participants coming mainly from outside the region) have resumed, although about half of the events and conferences are confirmed as in past years to be local in scope (with participants coming mainly from the same region in which the event is held).

The Observatory Scientific Director Roberto Nelli, Professor of Marketing at the University Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, points out “The research findings highlight two key aspects of the Italian meetings industry. On the one hand, the evolution of venues for events and conferences – a testament to the process of change taking place in the structure of the offer -, which is progressively reconfiguring itself to adapt to the changing market demand. On the other hand, the vitality of the territories, which know how to enhance more and more both their cultural vocation – think of the municipalities that fall within the “Great Beauty” cluster, in which 44% of the venues that welcome 54% of the total number of participants in events in Italy are located – and the different productive specializations of the local systems, from “Made in Italy” (which with 22% of venues hosts 19% of event participants) to urban systems highly specialized in tertiary activities, in which 18% of venues are located, aggregating 27% of total participants, a clear sign of how much the meetings industry can contribute to the development of businesses in the perspective of the network economy”.

“After the Icca report that places Italy in first place in Europe in terms of the number of congresses hosted, the OICE data are further confirmation of the very positive trend in our sector and encourage us to continue our work with even more determination,” adds Stefania De Toni, head of Padova Congress and board member of Federcongressi & eventi.

OICE 2023 sponsors: Italian Convention Bureau, Rome and Lazio Convention Bureau, Fondazione Destination Florence, Padova Congress, Promoturismo FVG, Riva Del Garda Fierecongressi, Riviera di Rimini Convention Bureau, Trieste Convention & Visitors Bureau, Turismo Torino e Provincia Convention Bureau, Venice Region Convention Bureau Network, Venezia Unica Convention Bureau, Villa Erba e VisitPiemonte.