Best cities around the world for association meetings

Top destinations for association meetings demonstrate resilience and adaptability, according to ICCA's 2021 Destination Performance Index.

The USA emerged as the top performing country for association meetings, according to ICCA.
The USA emerged as the top performing country for association meetings, according to ICCA. Photo Credit: GettyImages/melitas

The International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) has released its latest Destination Performance Index (DPI) 2021 in its analysis of worldwide association meetings.

The DPI examines 8,000 international association meetings planned for 2021, based on six performance indicators (planned, unaffected, virtual, hybrid, digitalisation, and business continuation). These combined indicators represent the overall DPI, highlighting how destinations have performed with regard to winning the original bid, Covid policies, adaptability, and technological capabilities to convert on-site events into virtual/hybrid events.

The US emerged as the top performing country for association meetings in the DPI, ranking first in four of the six indicators (planned, virtual, digitalisation, and business continuation).

The remaining two indicators, unaffected and hybrid, were topped by Spain and China, respectively. For cities, Vienna and Lisbon were close contenders in the DPI but Vienna come out top, with more unaffected meetings in 2021.

Overall, Europe was a strong performer as an association meeting destination during the pandemic. Seventy percent of the top 20 countries and 80% of the top 20 cities are European.

In the top 20 countries for meetings, Denmark and Greece replaced Argentina and Brazil. Spain jumped two spots since 2019 to become the second meeting destination globally. Italy claimed 5th place from the United Kingdom. Austria made the biggest jump, from 16th to 11th place.

Facing stricter Covid policies, China, Japan, and South Korea embraced hybrid. Due to the high number of hybrid meetings, South Korea replaced the Netherlands in the top 10 country destinations.

These are top 20 countries in ICCA's 2021 ranking:

  1. US
  2. Spain
  3. Germany
  4. France
  5. Italy
  6. UK
  7. Japan
  8. Portugal
  9. China
  10. South Korea
  11. Austria
  12. Netherlands
  13. Belgium
  14. Canada
  15. Sweden
  16. Switzerland
  17. Greece
  18. Denmark
  19. Poland
  20. Australia

The report also presents the top destinations for association meetings in 2021, based on estimated total number of attendees for hybrid and virtual events.

For destination cities, global stand-outs were Montreal (19th), the only North American city in the top 20 DPI, and Dubai (21st), the only city from the Middle East, and narrowly missing the top 20.

Dubai ranked first for unaffected meetings and was the only Middle Eastern city represented in the six individual top 20 rankings. Meanwhile, Budapest, Porto, and Stockholm all landed in the top 20 DPI for cities for the first time.

These are top 20 destinations in ICCA's 2021 ranking:

  1. Vienna
  2. Lisbon
  3. Athens
  4. Barcelona
  5. Singapore
  6. Madrid
  7. Prague
  8. Paris
  9. Berlin
  10. Brussels
  11. Amsterdam
  12. Budapest
  13. Seoul
  14. Copenhagen
  15. London
  16. Porto
  17. Rome
  18. Stockholm
  19. Montreal
  20. Taipei