Barcelona claims top city spot for first time since 2004

Barcelona claims first place in the ICCA city rankings by number of meetings in 2017 for the first time since 2004. The association meetings market continues to show robust growth.

In another successful year for the international association meetings industry, ICCA captured a record number of 12,558 rotating international association meetings taking place in 2017, with 346 additional meetings taking place compared to 2016. This is the highest annual figure that ICCA has ever recorded in its yearly analysis of the immediate past year’s meetings data.

Exponential growth market moving to maturity?

In its advocacy report “A Modern History of International Association Meetings: 1963-2013” (available at, ICCA identified a 50-year trend of exponential growth in the number of international association meetings: the number of these meetings doubled every 10 years. In the last 5–10 years, this exponential growth seems to slowly transcend into a more mature, but still solid, growth pattern.

More research and data is needed to identify any changes to the long-term pattern, so ICCA will be updating its “Modern History of International Association Meetings” report with the release of a 55-year history of international association meetings later this year.

2017 City rankings: Barcelona overtakes Paris and Vienna to claim first place

The cities in this year’s top 5 remain the same as they have done since 2015, but Barcelona surpasses regular first and second place holders Paris and Vienna to claim the top spot. Taking first place for the first time since 2004 with 195 meetings in 2017, Barcelona knocks last year’s number one Paris down to second place. Vienna holds its previous position in joint second place with Paris, and Berlin and London are placed in fourth and fifth. Madrid stays in seventh place for another year, and last year’s other number seven Amsterdam drops out of the top 10 to 16th place, making way for Prague to climb three places to join the top 10 in eighth place. As in 2016, Singapore, Lisbon and Seoul remain in sixth, ninth and 10th place respectively. Notable risers are Buenos Aires, jumping from 17th to 11th place, Budapest, jumping from 16th to 12th, and Hong Kong, jumping from 19th to 13th. Rome remains in 20th place for another year. Newcomers to the top 20 in 2017 are Tokyo and Montreal.

Table 1: Top 20 city ranking by number of meetings organised in 2017

Rank City # Meetings
1 Barcelona 195
2 Paris 190
  Vienna 190
4 Berlin 185
5 London 177
6 Singapore 160
7 Madrid 153
8 Prague 151
9 Lisbon 149
10 Seoul 142
11 Buenos Aires 131
12 Budapest 128
13 Hong Kong 119
14 Dublin 117
15 Copenhagen 115
16 Amsterdam 112
17 Bangkok 110
18 Tokyo 101
19 Stockholm 97
20 Montreal, QC 96
  Rome 96

Since 2016 there has not been much change in the top 10 country rankings, apart from a minor shift in positioning. As it has done for the past two decades, U.S.A. remains in the number one position with 941 meetings, 7 more than reported at this time in 2016. The cities in the top 3 have not changed, with Germany and United Kingdom remaining in second and third place after the U.S.A.’s first. France exits the top 5 and drops to sixth place with the rise of Spain and Italy one place to fourth and fifth, and Japan retains seventh place for a second year running. China P.R. drops one place to eighth. Portugal drops out of shared 10th place to 11th in 2017. Argentina falls two spots to 21st place and Denmark enters the top 20 at 20th place.

Table 2: Top 20 country rankings by number of meetings organised in 2017

Rank Country # Meetings
1 U.S.A. 941
2 Germany 682
3 United Kingdom 592
4 Spain 564
5 Italy 515
6 France 506
7 Japan 414
8 China P.R. 376
9 Canada 360
10 Netherlands 307
11 Portugal 298
12 Austria 281
13 Republic of Korea 279
14 Australia 258
15 Sweden 255
16 Brazil 237
17 Switzerland 230
18 Poland 216
19 Belgium 208
20 Denmark 203


The annual ICCA country and city rankings report is the most respected global comparison of destinations’ performance in attracting international meetings. However, it should be noted that the report covers a narrow segment of the meetings industry, only including international association meetings that rotate between at least three countries, have a proven attendance of at least 50 participants, and are held on a regular basis. The ICCA rankings should thus not be mistaken as providing an overview of the entire meetings industry. ICCA members are always advised to consult other rankings and collect their own meetings statistics to help them provide a full picture of their performance.

ICCA CEO Martin Sirk said: “In a world of disruption and unpredictability, the continuing growth in international association meetings is a welcome anomaly, but is not that surprising. We are still in a period of revolutionary change in terms of scientific and technological advancements, which are transforming traditional association fields such as healthcare and trade. To make sense of the tsunami of new data and information, association communities need to meet. Not just at their traditional, well-established meetings, but in new gatherings specifically invented to serve new academic fields or to reach out to new audiences. These are the pressures that we believe will continue to boost the sector for many years to come.”

The full ICCA statistics reports are available now to members only via ICCA’s Destination Comparison Tool. The rankings for all countries and cities will be released to the public in mid-June.

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