The Top Global Meetings Destinations: Where Business Travelers Are Heading

What cities in the world are the best for business meetings? American Express Meetings & Events (M&E) answers that question in its newly released 2018 Global Meetings and Events Forecast report.

Today, though, we’re going a bit deeper — not only looking at it from the perspective of “where” but also the “how” and “why.” So, in addition to listing the top 10 meetings destinations in four different regions of the world, we’re also exploring why the featured locations below were ranked number one. Specifically, hat is it about these metropolises that make it such a magnet for corporate travelers? How do their airports ease travel frustrations? What do business travelers with sophisticated tastes love about the local cuisine?

After all, business may be what gets your travelers out there in the first place, but as we’ve come to discover, it’s not always why they’re heading back.

NORTH AMERICA

The top 10 destinations are:
1. Orlando, Fla.
2. Las Vegas, Nev.
3. Chicago, Ill.
4. Atlanta, Ga.
5. San Diego, Calif.
6. Washington, D.C.
7. Nashville, Tenn.
8. Dallas, Texas
9. New York, N.Y.
10. Phoenix, Ariz.
(Source: Cvent, 2017)

About Orlando

It’s no surprise the Floridian city earned North America’s top spot on this year’s list (again). The land of Mickey Mouse seems to attract just as many convention goers as it does families.

So, what makes it such a great venue for conferences? For starters, it has 450 hotel and resort options and boasts the second-largest concentration of hotel rooms of any U.S. city. Not to mention, it is home to Orange County Convention Center, one of the largest in the country.

Of course, there are the celebrity chefs — the Masaharu Morimotos, Art Smiths and Wolfgang Pucks — who draw gastronomes to Universal Studios and Walk Disney World. But outside the theme parks, you’ll find among Orlando’s 5,000 restaurants food that is equally outstanding.

Add to that the 170 golf courses, more than a dozen theme parks and an easy commute to an international airport, and it seems like sunny Orlando is an ideal place for a business trip — and one that easily can segue into a family vacation.

ASIA PACIFIC

The top 10 destinations are:
1. Singapore
2. Sydney, Australia
3. Bangkok, Thailand
4. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
5. Hong Kong
6. Shanghai, China
7. Melbourne, Australia
8. Tokyo, Japan
9. Mumbai, India
10. Seoul, South Korea
(Source: Cvent, 2017)

About Singapore

As the third-largest financial center in the world (after London and New York City) and a hub of global commerce, transport and shipping, this island city-state at the southern tip of the Malaysian Peninsula is an economic powerhouse, attracting business travelers from every corner.

One attraction that makes business travel in Singapore so appealing? Interestingly enough, its airport — which indeed is an attraction all unto itself. Ranked by Skytrax as the No. 1 airport in the world for the fifth consecutive year, Singapore’s Changi Airport boasts two 24-hour movie theaters screening the latest blockbusters for free, a rooftop swimming pool, a garden with over 1,000 live butterflies and an excellent reputation for efficiency.

Singapore, where eating is truly a national pastime, also has some of the tastiest food. From Michelin-rated street eats to world-class fine dining options, you will enjoy diverse flavors that fuse together Chinese, Malay, Indian and English influences. Don’t leave the Lion City without trying bak kut teh — which is a lot tastier than its translation (“meat bone tea”) sounds — as well as chilli crab — which isn’t as spicy as it sounds.

EUROPE

The top 10 destinations are:
1. London, England
2. Barcelona, Spain
3. Berlin, Germany
4. Amsterdam, Netherlands
5. Paris, France
6. Madrid, Spain
7. Frankfurt, Germany
8. Rome, Italy
9. Munich, Germany
10. Prague, Czech Republic
(Source: Cvent, 2017)

About London

With six international airports serving the area, London is an easy-to-reach destination no matter where in the world business travelers are coming from. Making it even simpler for departing passengers, Heathrow Airport now has universal automated check-in at Terminal 2 — which means you can obtain your boarding pass at any counter in the departures area, regardless of which airline you’re flying with. All you need to do is queue up in the shortest line available.

With more than 2,500 hotels in the city, business travelers may feel paralyzed by all their accommodations options. Fortunately, it won’t be so overwhelming when it comes to getting to where they need to go. Because it’s fairly compact, the city center is easy to get around — whether by foot, black cab or the Tube.

And here’s some more good news: Business travelers no longer have to sustain themselves on a diet of fish and chips and Shepherd’s pies when they roll into town. By all accounts, London’s has become one of the most exciting gourmet destinations in the last two decades, with new restaurants of every variety popping up in all parts.

CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA

The top 10 destinations are:
1. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
2. Cancun/Riviera Maya, Mexico
3. Mexico City, Mexico
4. São Paulo, Brazil
5. Cartagena, Colombia
6. Panama City, Panama
7. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
8. Buenos Aires, Argentina
9. Lima, Peru
10. Santiago, Chile and San Jose, Costa Rica
(Source: American Express Meetings & Events destinations analysis, August 2017)

 About Rio de Janeiro

Sure, Brazil’s second-largest city did earn a party reputation for a reason. But if you avoid going during Carnival, you will see Rio boasts way more than a rocking nightlife. It also has postcard-perfect beaches, one of the Seven Wonders of the World (the Christ the Redeemer statue) and, oh yeah, it is a thriving business hub.

Rio’s chief industries include oil, energy, consumer goods, finance and media production. Home to many universities, it also is known as a research and development center in South America, with GE and IBM as some of the big R&D players.

Those heading there to meet clients can expect to do business over a lunch feasting on a traditional churrascaria, an all-you-can-eat-meat experience, or a hearty feijoada, a delicious stew of pork and black beans served over rice.

Despite the Olympics not transforming Rio in the way that Brazilians were promised, there’s one venue that did get a major facelift: Rio Galeão-Tom Jobim International Airport.

Airport authorities poured $600 million into the project that added scores of new shops, more parking, additional lounge space and a high-capacity wireless network.

The airport now is partly managed by the Changi Airport Group — yes, the same folks who run Singapore's award-winning airport that we mentioned above. But, no, don’t expect a butterfly garden in Rio’s version. For that kind of spectacle, you’ll have to take a side trip to the Amazon Rainforest.