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ICCA Board of Directors selects Senthil Gopinath as incoming CEO

From right to left: Mr. Egemen Bagis, former Turkish Minister for EU Affairs and Chief Negotiator, ICCA European Director Elif Balci Fisunoglu, Volkan Ataman, President of Tourism Medya Group, and the two MCs of the Award Ceremony.

Gopinath’s career in the meetings travel industry spans more than 20 years, with 18 years spent working within ICCA member organisations

ICCA’s Board of Directors has selected Senthil Gopinath to serve as the organisation’s new CEO. As per ICCA by-laws, the Board made the selection in a closed-vote process, with Gopinath winning by majority vote. He will begin the new role in April 2019.

“Senthil brings the qualities that we most need in a leader at this juncture,” said James Rees, ICCA President and Executive Director of ExCeL London. “Throughout his career, he has demonstrated not only that he can establish a vision, but also chart the tactical path to reach that vision, always working from a solid foundation of operational and financial expertise.”

Gopinath’s career in the meetings travel industry spans more than 20 years, with 18 years spent working within ICCA member organisations. He joined the ICCA team in 2016 as Regional Director of ICCA Middle East (ME). In that role, he has forged new relationships with regional governments and industry partners, and grown ICCA ME membership by more than 80 percent.

The Board noted several career accomplishments as key to their consideration of Gopinath during the candidate review process, including:

  • Dramatically elevating MICE operations for Emirates Group as its head of business development and operations, making the division one of the largest and most profitable in the region;
  • Re-structuring and re-strategising the business model of VFS Global a part of Kuoni Travel Group. As Vice president – South Asia of VFS Global, growing annual profits exponentially over 60% growth in two years;
  • Creating an innovative private-public partnership model for the Sri Lanka Convention Bureau as its general manager and CEO, increasing business tourism by 78 percent and driving a 64 percent increase in revenue; 
  • Being named one of three finalists for the 2019 Business Event Strategist of the Year award from the Professional Convention Management Association, with the winner to be announced in May.

Gopinath’s selection marked the end of a process that began in October 2018 and drew more than 100 applicants for the position. Finalists were screened through extensive interviews as well as an objective, psychometric evaluation of work styles and strengths using a leading industry instrument. The Board was assisted in the search process by Brussels-based European Affairs Recruitment Specialists (EARS), which was retained for the task in October.

Gopinath’s immediate responsibilities will include developing and executing annual business plans, ensuring operational sustainability and careful financial controls, and building ICCA’s global membership and presence with a special focus on developing member services adapted to each of ICCA’s key regions. He will work from ICCA Head Office in Amsterdam and report to the President and Board of Directors.

Gopinath says: “I am truly honoured to be appointed for such a prestigious position in one of the global meetings industry’s leading organisations. I take this opportunity to sincerely thank the President and Board of Directors of ICCA in placing their confidence in me. ICCA has been a family to me for over two decades. I have always cherished my involvement with ICCA and now being at the helm will enable me to listen more closely to our members and key stakeholders, and service them in a more enhanced manner, making ICCA more relevant to the global membership. Together with the ICCA team, we will work on the transformation of ICCA.”

ICCA President James Rees added: “I am delighted that ICCA is now in a position to move forward with its new CEO Senthil Gopinath. However, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Interim CEO Dennis Speet for his incredible work over the past ten months to help the Board of Directors lay firm foundations for ICCA’s future growth.”

ICCA’s Elif Balci Fisunoglu receives prestigious ACE of MICE "Outstanding Service Award"
In recognition of her contributions to the growth of the international meetings industry, both through her global advocacy as ICCA Regional Director Europe and during her meetings industry career in Turkey, Elif Balci Fisunoglu was handed the prestigious “Outstanding Service Award” by leading Turkish exhibition ACE of MICE at the 7th ACE of M.I.C.E. Meetings and Events Awards ceremony in Istanbul, Turkey on 4th April.

An annual celebration, the illustrious ceremony honours the achievements of the movers and shakers in the Turkish meetings industry. The “Outstanding Service Award” is awarded every year to shine a spotlight on the achievements of Turkey’s most prominent meetings industry figures.

Major growth in ICCA Europe region
An ardent ambassador for the global meetings industry, Fisunoglu has held the position of ICCA Regional Director Europe since January 2018, where she leads the European Regional Office and represents and advances the interests of over 500 members in the European region, who are spread over six Chapters. Under her leadership, ICCA Europe has experienced fast-paced growth, welcoming 53 new and re-instated members since Fisunoglu took the helm. Fisunoglu is a regular presence at the global trade association’s European Chapter events and major regional industry conferences, leading education sessions that address issues vital to the development of ICCA’s diverse European membership. 

In particular, she works closely with national governments, local convention bureaux and tourism boards on behalf of ICCA to develop regional association market segments. The focus of these partnerships is to improve national strategic approaches to international bidding, create platforms for networking between local ICCA Members and associations, and bring in business for local and national destinations. 

Before joining ICCA, Fisunoglu spent 15 years with the Istanbul Convention and Visitors Bureau, where she held senior sales and marketing positions before serving for over three years as General Manager. During this time, she was an extremely active contributor to the ICCA community and strong voice on behalf of her country’s fellow meetings industry professionals. 

ICCA currently has an active community of 32 Turkish member-suppliers, which has grown steadily as the meetings industry continues to be regarded with major importance in the country. Turkish Airlines remains a steadfast ICCA supporter and Istanbul Convention Bureau is now an ICCA Association Relations Partner. Antalya was also the host of the recent ICCA Mediterranean Chapter Summit, held from 17-19 February.

Unrivalled industry representative
Fisunoglu said of her recognition: “I am honoured to have been considered for the Outstanding Service Award for my role at ICCA. It is a great honour and privilege. 

I spent my career in the Turkish meeting industry from 2001 to 2018. During this period, I tried my best to actively represent my destination on the international stage, and also aimed to serve the global meetings industry by holding volunteer roles at international organisations such as ICCA, ECM, PCMA and MPI. ICCA has always been very special to me, as feeling part of the ICCA Family is a very unique experience. I was very lucky and glad to be invited to join the ICCA team as the Regional Director Europe at the beginning of 2018. 

In my role at ICCA’s European Regional Office, I work very closely with our members from all around, attending regional and national meeting industry events in our member countries and working closely with our member destinations to support them in developing their national association meetings market. Flying the ICCA flag all around Europe is a great honour for me, and I am very happy to see the increase at ICCA’s European membership and build relationships with the ICCA European Chapter and our members on a daily basis.

Thank you to our Turkish colleagues and to ACE of M.I.C.E. for this amazing recognition!”

The 7th ACE of M.I.C.E Meetings and Events Awards took place at the Istanbul Lutfi Kirdar Congress and Exhibition Center in Istanbul, Turkey on Wednesday 3 April 2019. 

Tatiana Rokou

Tatiana is the news coordinator for TravelDailyNews Media Network (traveldailynews.gr, traveldailynews.com and traveldailynews.asia). Her role includes monitoring the hundreds of news sources of TravelDailyNews Media Network and skimming the most important according to our strategy.

She holds a Bachelor's degree in Communication & Mass Media from Panteion University of Political & Social Studies of Athens and she has been editor and editor-in-chief in various economic magazines and newspapers.

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