Irish Professional Conference Organisers are seeing a ‘significant’ improvement in the outlook for their sector, according to a survey carried out with their leading members. AIPCO, the Association of Irish Professional Conference Organisers, published the survey which highlights the upward trend in the Irish business tourism sector.
The survey showed that the majority of respondents felt that their business was performing better in 2012 compared to 2011, with none believing it to be worse. There was also encouraging results in terms of delegate attendance, with over a third of AIPCO members saying their meetings saw a 20%+ rise in attendance figures. A key trend confirmed by the survey was the increase in the number of services offered by PCOs, with a much greater focus on strategic partnerships over purely logistical ones.
"Half of our members increased the services they have provide their clients. This is part of a real shift towards working with associations on a longer-term basis. It’s no longer enough to deliver one great event; you have to bring a strategic insight to the table that will deliver on the return of objectives and the return on investment" said Jean Evans, Chair of AIPCO "Even working within the constraints of the financial climate, we’ve had to improve both the range of services we provide as well as the level we can offer them at. As a result, we’re now truly able to compete on the international stage."
One of the main areas of concern highlighted by AIPCO members was the continued drop in exhibition and sponsorship revenue, with the private and public sector still reluctant to invest as heavily in marketing spend as they did in the past. Issues such as the Pharma Code and its knock-on effect on the medical conference sector is also seen as having a significant impact, with all but one AIPCO member saying it was having a direct effect on their business.
"I do believe revenues generated by industry partners will bounce-back, but I’d also predict it will come back in a different form" said Susan Nolan, Vice-Chair of AIPCO. "Companies are going to invest in different areas and in different ways. The personal contact in the exhibition booth will probably always remain, but we will see a diversification into new technologies and a focus on contributing to the programme content."
The three key future trends highlighted by AIPCO members were a greater increase in strategic management and consultant services, making destination management services a core part of the business and the advent of content capturing of conferences and the sharing of that knowledge online. These identified trends are now at the forefront of AIPCO’s thinking, with members clearly focused on matching their offerings with the growing needs of their international clients.
"A simple survey can often be the most effective tool for looking at the big picture" concluded Jean Evans "It’s in these moments we can see the clear change happening within our industry - more expertise required across the board and, as always, the ability to deliver results."