Industry leaders discussed the transformative potential of association meetings in a high-level session at the 62nd ICCA Congress focused on understanding the value of meetings in driving economic transformation and engaging high-level officials.
Beyond numerical metrics, the qualitative impact of meetings in driving industries and fuelling the economic growth of destinations needs to be taken into account.
“Our industry plays a pivotal role in propelling sustainable development,” said Tina Altieri, managing principal, Max Communicate and session moderator.
“It’s time for the narrative to change, beyond being just a subset of the service industry. While we use the same infrastructure as leisure tourism – airlines, hotels, venues, and restaurants, it’s not our primary objective,” she said, adding that destination challenges such as talent management, building knowledge, building up communities, and changing policies should be taken into account.
“Creating an economically viable and inclusive destination is crucial, yet without a sustainable environment, financial success loses meaning. Business events are pivotal for national development plans. Fostering cross-industry collaboration and a legacy impact should be second nature to us,” emphasised Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, Sarawak’s minister of tourism, creative industry, performing arts, youth, sports & entrepreneur development.
Finding a united voice in the industry helps to effectively communicate with policymakers. Case in point is Bahrain, a tiny nation of 1.6 million residents that attracted 10 million visitors in 2022, and foresees 11 million by the end of 2023.
“If the sector grows, that means we’re doing a good job as a regulator. So what we try to do is to stay agile (and use) our size to our advantage. If you come to us with a regulatory issue, we’ll change the law. If you tell us you have a zoning issue, we’ll change the zones. If you tell us you have a funding issue, we’ll contact relevant entities. We advocate on your behalf,” shared Nasser Qaedi, CEO, Bahrain Exhibition & Convention Authority.
“Once the government or officials realise the trajectory is moving forward and they’re starting to see tangible outcomes in the economy, that shows you’re going in the right direction, then they’ll give you what you need. We abide by that philosophy,” he elaborated.
Senthil Gopinath, CEO of ICCA, shared concrete tips for multiplying legacy impact: “Identify key sectors in your destination, like information technology driving GDP. Engage with those sectors first to demonstrate the economic contribution of business events and gain policy makers’ understanding.”
He drew the example of “economic synergy” in Sydney, Australia, where the CVB effectively practices economic synergy by aligning with key sectors’ strategies and objectives.
“It’s our responsibility as leaders of destinations, as leaders of centres, to educate and convince policymakers that their position is very important, that makes them feel empowered and proud about being part of the growth – only then can we change the narrative from being transactional to transformational,” summarised Altieri.