The association meetings industry is facing tough economic
headwinds with a renewed sense of purpose - focusing on legacy, sustainability,
and diversity, equity, and inclusion.
That’s the unmistakable message that came across at the 61st
Congress of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), held
in Krakow, Poland this week.
The five-day event focused almost exclusively on these three
themes, echoing a prevailing sentiment in the industry that it needs to evolve
quickly to meet a host of new challenges.
Taking place at the same time as COP27 in Egypt, there were
arguments for the industry to clean up its act and demonstrate the tangible
benefits of meetings beyond economic impact.
In one session, run by ICCA and BestCities, three associations – IWRA, ISCBFM
– demonstrated how they used meetings to benefit society and improve policy.
The associations were all Incredible
Impact Award winners and all
three were given a grant of USD$7,500 towards further projects. ICCA has
been building bridges between its members and their association clients for
several years now and has a 500-strong association community.
Elsewhere we heard how ICCA members – mainly meeting
industry suppliers – had created an open innovation platform, led by the German
Convention Bureau, to make the industry more dynamic.
Taking part in that session, ICCA CEO Senthil Gopinath said
the industry had become ‘complacent’ about how things should be done, but since
the pandemic that had now changed.
He said: “Innovation is a word that is very close to my
heart. I believe our industry must innovate or it will die. Why? Because every
other industry is innovating, and we can’t be left behind.”
Earlier ICCA members elected Marta Gomes, deputy executive
director, Sales VIParis, as the new ICCA president, succeeding James Rees, executive director - conferences &
events, ExCeL London
Gomes, who saw off competition from two Americans - Daniel
Palomo, Visit Houston and Greg Talley, Talley Management Group - said she saw
‘blue skies ahead and events are coming back strongly’ but, we should be ‘ever
mindful of the challenges ahead’.
AMI editor James
Lancaster is a familiar face in the meetings industry and international
association community. Since joining AMI in 2010, he has gained a reputation
for asking difficult questions and getting lost in convention centres. Proofer, podcaster, and panellist - in his spare time, James likes to walk,
read, listen to music, and drink beer.