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Senthil Gopinath, International Congress and Convention Association

With the sudden departure of the gregarious Martin Sirk from the post of CEO of the International Congress and Convention Association ( ICCA), there was much anticipation about who would be his successor. Senthil Gopinath was given the nod. Rob Spalding asks the questions…

Getting engaged

RS: Is it an advantage you were an ICCA member before you became CEO?

SG: Definitely, it gives me a great insight into the ICCA membership requirements and how we can give even more support to members towards achieving their business objectives.

RS: You have been asked to fulfill certain objectives by the board. Are they the ones you would have chosen yourself?

SG: Yes, they are. The primary objective is to achieve global growth for ICCA.

RS: Where were you educated and what did you expect to be your career?

SG: I was educated in Sri Lanka and in the UK. I always wanted to be a part of the tourism industry.

RSYou have worked for an airline, a conference organiser and a convention bureau. Which one did you enjoy most?  

SG: All of them. Each one of them had its own characteristics and each one of them offered me a great learning process.

RS: Your CV hints at many thousands of hours travelling. Did you get time to marry, have children, buy a dog, put down roots…?

SG: Yes, I am happily married and have a lovely teenage daughter. My two ladies at home are my inspiration. Didn’t have time for a dog though!

RS: What scares you most about your new job?

SG: I wouldn’t call it a scary, but a challenge in keeping pace with the ever-growing and developing meetings industry.

RS: When you were appointed in April this year, what was the very first thing you did?

SG: I immediately created my own plan on how to take ICCA forward and achieve member and stake holder engagement.

RS: Did anything come as a rude awakening ?

SG: Not at all, because ICCA has already been in my heart for over two decades. In fact, during the first day of work I felt I was given the great opportunity to work more closely with the global ICCA family and the wonderful team in Amsterdam.

RS: Do you have a personal benchmark of success?

SGI always set a personal benchmark in my career. When I joined ICCA Middle East I set my personal benchmark to grow the region and achieved that to a greater extend within three years.

RS: If you were still just an ICCA member where would you want your new CEO to take you?

SG: I would want ICCA to engage with me more, build the knowledge economy among the members, and of course introduce innovative methodologies to achieve business objectives.

What Senthil Gopinath has done

  • Dramatically elevated 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-structured and re-strategised the business model of VFS Global – part of Kuoni Travel Group. As Vice president – South Asia of VFS Global, grew annual profits exponentially over 60 per cent growth in two years
  • Created an innovative private-public partnership model for the Sri Lanka Convention Bureau as its general manager and CEO, increasing business tourism by 78 per cent and driving a 64 per cent 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

And what he has to do…

  • For ICCA, Gopinath’s immediate responsibilities will include developing and executing annual business plans, ensuring operational sustainability and careful financial controls, and building ICCA’s international membership