UIA Statistics Report and The Pandemic in 2021 – signs of the new normal in the midst of turmoil

By Joel Fischer, UIA Statistics Coordinator

Number of international association meetings

For all of its 100-plus years of history the UIA has promoted transnational relationships between people as a key element of stability, peace, scientific advancement and the general betterment of humanity. As an observer of, organizer of, and participant in transnational events the UIA extends its condolences to those who have lost family, friends and colleagues to the pandemic and regrets the tremendous difficulties that all nations have faced during the accompanying social and economic upheavals.

The "new normal" is still developing as it relates to daily life, associational life and meeting activities. As with last year's report, the massive impact of the pandemic on international association meetings has led us to revise the presentation of this report. This report offers two sections: a re-presentation of the data for events held in 2019 and a presentation of the data we currently have for what took place in 2021.
The data for 2021, as well as observing 2022, show us the ebb and flow of crises caused by the pandemic's impacts on work, tourism, access to travel, and association life. Some meetings have been rescheduled twice or even three times; others which were planned as in-person had to be held online or in hybrid formats.

Some countries are only now (mid-2022) lifting border controls on outside visitors, a situation which has impeded in-person meeting planning. Looking to the future, we see more long-range meeting scheduling by associations, with locations and dates through 2027 being promoted. The difference now is that most sectors involved in international meetings have had time to adjust their requirements and expectations. Such changes allow for future scheduling while retaining the flexibility to postpone or change format as circumstances dictate.

2022 and 2023 will provide further evidence of how the elements which comprise international association meetings are handling the challenges of a pandemic which continues and a disease which is likely to become endemic rather than eradicated. The environment in which international meetings and travel take place is also subject to new elements to prepare for: border policies related to the pandemic; airlines with staffing shortages and flight cancellations on short notice; supply chain and staffing issues for catering and other services; the war in Ukraine causing inflation and other financial pressures; adjustments to energy policies and costs due to both the Russia situation and attempts to address climate change; and so on. Hybrid and virtual options will remain part of the meeting format mix, though these raise issues of access and equity across the “digital divide”.  To further examine these points, the UIA is again undertaking a large-scale survey of transnational associations UIA Survey 2022 ­­ COVID 19 Impact on International Association Meetings which will be released in the fourth quarter of 2022.

For more information on the 63rd edition of the International Meetings Statistics Report and to order your copy, go to: https://uia.org/publications/meetings-stats


Joel Fischer has been part of the UIA’s editorial and Secretariat staff since 1996. He is co-editor of the Yearbook of International Organizations and the International Congress Calendar, and coordinates the UIA’s work on international association meetings statistics.