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European politicians closer to meetings industry

The IMEX Politicians’ Forum has begun to make a discernible impact on the way in which some politicians across Europe now view their local meetings industry and its suppliers, as the organizer stated. Held for the…

The IMEX Politicians’ Forum has begun to make a discernible impact on the way in which some politicians across Europe now view their local meetings industry and its suppliers, as the organizer stated. Held for the fifth time this year, the Forum is co-organised by ECM (European Cities Marketing) and IMEX, and meets under the auspices of JMIC (Joint Meetings Industry Council) during the IMEX exhibition in Frankfurt in April. Its primary aim is to demonstrate the value of the meetings industry to the wider local community by focusing on tangible issues such as economic value and benchmarking with other prolific sectors.

This year 14 politicians, mainly from Europe but also from Canada and South Africa for the first time, joined over 30 meetings industry leaders representing industry associations, destinations and venues.

Previous participants testified to the fact that the Forum has increased their understanding of the differences between business and consumer tourism and of the ‘hidden’ importance of the meetings industry as a driver for growth and development within the local economy. Several also commented on their increased awareness of how competitive the sector was and their desire to support their regions in establishing a higher national and international profile.

This point was reinforced by the Forum’s moderator, Michael Hirst OBE, Chairman of the UK’s Business Tourism Partnership. He told guests, “By taking a keen interest in your local meetings industry, you are tapping into a global market of 4.5 million visitor delegates. They bring with them expenditures estimated to be well in excess of 200 billion euros. This represents nearly 10 per cent of all global tourism.”

Rod Cameron, President of Criterion Promotions (Canada) agreed but also explained, “It’s not just about money. Business tourism supports business development, attracts new investment, encourages professional development, attracts global expertise, raises the destination’s profile and creates a showcase for local products and services. It about more than just simple finances.”

He also explained that the industry often follows an unusual economic model. “Convention centres usually act as loss leaders and therefore owners need special mechanisms to recover costs, such as taxes and other revenues. But global competition means global pricing and no centre can set its own rules,” he said.

Full report

A full report of the Forum’s findings shows that many of the delegates are now fully aligned behind some of the Forum’s previous recommendations. Guests testified to the fact that ‘meetings can mean votes’ and that they now appreciate how vital it is to maintain a constant dialogue with meeting professionals in order to make progress. As one delegate commented, “good private/public partnerships do get results.”

Others issues debated during the day were the importance of correct timing when requesting government funding and the need for both sides to take a long-term view on infrastructure investment, especially regarding new conference facilities. In terms of reputation and branding, delegates also discussed the fact that sports events generally find easy favour with politicians, while it is vital for any city to create and consistently invest in a strong brand if it is to attract successful, large-scale events in the first place.

The discussion also looked at the current environmental challenges facing the meetings industry and the trend for events to be socially responsible, with a desire to feed skills, knowledge and support back into the local community

As in previous years, the politicians both attended a round table event and spent several hours on the trade show floor, meeting industry participants and hearing detailed case study presentations from successful destinations. In all, details of 14 different destinations were presented, including Adelaide, Istanbul, Finland and Vienna.

Theodore Koumelis
Co-Founder & Managing Director - Travel Media Applications | Website

Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.