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IMEX 2008

Political diversity and increased awareness mark 2008 Politicians’ Forum

The IMEX annual Politicians’ Forum saw its largest and most politically diverse turnout on Tuesday when political representatives from Europe, Asia, Australia and Canada met with industry leaders and specially-invited VIPs to examine the growing influence of the meetings industry on local political and economic agendas.

A total of 70 attended the Forum, including high-level politicians from South Africa, Australia, Poland and Ireland for the first time. They joined representatives from Belgium, Switzerland, Hungary, Scotland, Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK.

The group was welcomed shortly after midday by moderator, Michael Hirst OBE, Chairman of the Business Tourism Partnership UK. They then heard a meetings industry update from Rod Cameron, President of Criterion Communications, who described some of the changes that have taken place in the sector over the past 12 months and their potential political importance. He explained how the meetings industry is becoming increasingly effective at measuring its local economic impact, and how many different bodies within the global meetings market are also taking a forceful lead on issues of global concern, such as climate change.

Further presentations included "The Importance of Destination Support from Municipal Leaders" by Richard Holmes, International Director of Meetings at the International Bureau of Epilepsy and "Beyond Economic Impact" by Martin Sirk, CEO of ICCA.

A "Politicians’ Perspective" later in the day provided an informative and entertaining overview of various achievements and challenges faced by several contrasting political regions. It included insight, advice and shared experiences from Jane Lomax-Smith, Minister for Tourism, South Australia; Alan Lowe, Mayor Victoria BC, Canada and Ivor Blumenthal, CEO of Goverment Services Sector Education and Training Authority, South Africa.

Speaking before the Forum about the postive long-term effect of attending, Dr Hilda Farago, General Secretary of the National Tourism Board of Hungary said, "It is imperative for me to encourage local politicians to attend the Politicians’ Forum so that they can see for themselves the importance and size of the conference and exhibitions industry. They are able to take that knowledge away and build upon it, and they are impressed by the dimensions and multiculturalism of IMEX. It helps all professionals to convince politicians that our competitors are overall in the world, and not only next door."

Says IMEX Director of International Relations, Tom Hulton, "I’m delighted to see that the influence and appeal of this Forum has grown year on year. We now have clear and ample, evidence that the Forum has created some strong new partnerships between politicians and commercial bodies and that these have gone on to drive positive changes at a local level."

Alan Lowe, Mayor of Victoria, Canada, and one of the main speakers, commented, "Dialogue between front line politicians and the convention industry is important as each side doesn’t necessarily know what the other needs or wants. I was pleased to see that everyone here was very interested and engaged in today’s debate."

Jane Lomax-Smith, Minster for Tourism for Adelaide, Australia, who also led the day’s debate, said, "I was pleasantly surprised by the magnitude of this event and the quality of the participants. It’s a good chance for everyone to understand where they are positioned, both politically and in relation to other centres."