The U.S. meetings and conventions industry generated $330 billion in direct spending or business sales in 2016, according to preliminary numbers released by the Meetings Mean Business Coalition (MMBC) at PCMA Convening Leaders 2018 being held at Music City Center in Nashville, Tenn., from Jan. 7-10.

The Events Industry Council's Meetings Significance Survey, due to be released in the next month, also will report that there were 1.9 million meetings nationwide in 2016, including more than 250 million participants. International visitors traveling to U.S. meetings numbered more than 6 million, generating $18.3 billion.

According to the MMBC, these numbers place the industry ahead of sales in the air, rail and water transportation sectors combined, and also the arts, entertainment and recreation sectors.

“The meetings economy has never been stronger, clearly, than it is today,” said Richard Harper, co-chair of MMBC and executive vice president of HelmsBriscoe. “We have the privilege of working in one of the largest industry in the world. It’s no longer, [just people thinking] ‘We plan parties.’ That’s where we’re at today.”

Click here to access the preliminary research results from MMBC.