How many international associations are there? The short answer: a lot.  

While the nonprofit sector remains vast and diverse, its numbers have increased tremendously within the last decade. According to current data, the ICCA Association Database consists of 11,000 international associations, an increase by 83% compared to 10 years ago, when only 6,000+ associations were recorded. Thousands of new associations are formed each year. Looking at the data per region, however, shows that the Asia Pacific region is home to a large concentration of trade and professional organisations.  

Asia-Pacific: Home of association leaders 

More than 1,000 associations are based in the Asia Pacific region, accounting for 10% in the worldwide association leadership and second only to Europe (5,000+). Demonstrating that Asia Pacific-based key opinion leaders are active in communities that work on domestic and international issues of interest to many, and signifying they play a supplemental part in fields that are difficult for governments to address. More specifically, they have come to play a vital role in tackling social issues and effecting positive changes in society. Today, Asia-Pacific is booming in the non-profit segment thanks to the strong demand that is coming with the region’s economic growth. A look at some of the fastest-growing industries in the world today – such as alternative energy, biotechnology, electronic commerce, and construction - provides strong clues about where we will see new trade and professional associations forming in the years ahead.  

Regional association membership confounded by robust economic growth and human capital development 

A good example is ICCA – the International Congress and Convention Association. ICCA’s Asia Pacific Chapter is one of the fastest growing regions, with membership growth surging by 80% over the last 10 years. The rapid growth in members – from 150 member organisations to nearly 300 – is a resounding testament to the strength of the Asia-Pacific countries, mainly due to the robust economic growth and human capital development.  

It also underpins the fact that more and more associations are seeking field information in this region, as globalisation has had a powerful impact on professional societies and trade groups. With Asia-Pacific poised as a new centre for growth, many associations are looking to the East now to hold their future events, of which a large extent is driven by advances in these fields.  

Asia-Pacific’s increasing popularity confirmed by meetings industry benchmarks 

Statistics on the number of international meetings and conferences held worldwide show that Asia-Pacific cities are becoming increasingly popular as conference destinations. According to ICCA’s latest Statistics Report, Asia-Pacific is rapidly increasing their share of the market to 25%; the 2018 figures seem to confirm this growing trend. Asia-Pacific destinations continue to feature highly in the ranking with 2 countries, China and Japan, present in the latest Top 10 ranking.  

A total of 6 cities from Asia-Pacific surged up the 2018 Top 20 table, which are: Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul and Taipei. This encouraging trend confirms Asia-Pacific cities are streaming ahead with initiatives to become smart cities and they are becoming popular choices for meeting planners. The pull factor, on the other hand, is that associations are often involved in contributing to a larger cause, such as building a stronger profession, with members contributing their expertise, skills, and time to community-based efforts. This, combined with the growth and technological advances in the Asia-Pacific region, sees associations creating more education programmes and regional meetings specially for the Asia-Pacific members. For instance, Rotary International, an international service organisation founded in 1905, organises its Annual Convention worldwide which involves around 20,000 participants. This super series of volunteer leaders is set to visit the Asia-Pacific region in 2021 (Taipei), 2023 (Melbourne) and 2024 (Singapore), counting 3 Asia-Pacific destinations within 5 editions. Also, it is noteworthy to mention that Korea is the fourth largest Rotary Club country, with 1,600 clubs and 60,000 members.  

Associations represent a major piece of the meetings and conventions industry in the world and play a vital role in enriching communities. As our world is undergoing a revolutionary period in the creation of new knowledge and innovation, no doubt this will give birth to new associations, in turn stimulating new advances.

If you have any queries please email Margaret Lu Kwai Ting, Membership Development Manager Asia Pacific.