Menu

Historic bid to unite the business events industry collapses

EXCLUSIVE by James Lancaster

A ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to unite the international business events industry was thwarted at the eleventh hour.

A detailed roadmap to ‘merge’ the Events Industry Council (EIC) and the Joint Meetings Industry Council (JMIC) was finalised in December with both sides optimistic it would be ratified.

While the organisations have different structures, they have similar aims: to advocate on behalf of the industry, to provide a ‘global’ or ‘unified voice’, and to highlight the role of events in driving economic development.

Their members are associations who represent different parts of the business events industry.

Supporters of a unified entity say it would have helped the industry, battered by Covid-19 restrictions, to truly speak with one voice and lobby governments to implement policies that would aid its recovery in a time of crisis.

One industry source described it as ‘a once in a generation opportunity’.

But while JMIC members gave the document their unanimous support, the deal collapsed at the final hurdle.

EIC instigated negotiations last spring, as the coronavirus pandemic began to wreak havoc through the events industry.

A task force was set up to work out the merger with three representatives from each side. Representing EIC was Paul Van Deventer, CEO of MPI and EIC chair; Mark Cooper, CEO of IACC and chair-elect of EIC;  and David Audrain, CEO of SISO and EIC board member. Representing JMIC was Geoff Donaghy, CEO of ICC Sydney; James Rees, Executive Director of Excel London and President of ICCA; and JMIC president and CEO of UFI Kai Hattendorf.

The final framework they produced is understood to have been ‘rich’ in detail and ‘ready to go’ – outlining plans for the board, finances, operational priorities, and the organisational structure of the new entity.

It was accompanied by a resolution calling on both organisations to vote in favour of the roadmap and, in effect, ‘seize the moment’. Had the proposal been passed, it would have triggered a 12-month transition period.

Although both EIC and JMIC have taken steps to broaden their geographic reach in recent years, EIC has always had a strong North American slant, while JMIC has veered towards EMEA, Latin America, and Asia Pacific.

But that is not the only difference between the two organisations: EIC, formerly the Convention Industry Council, is a federation of associations, with a certification programme, while JMIC is a less formalised network of associations.

Both organisations have issued identical statements following the collapse of the proposed merger, which leaves the door tentatively ajar for further negotiations at some point in the future.

It states: “In the normal course of business, and in the pursuit of fulfilling our mission of advocating for the business events industry, the boards and staff of (JMIC or EIC) regularly discuss opportunities with other industry organisations on partnerships that can advance our strategy, leverage resources and create efficiencies.

“Regarding this specific issue, a task force from JMIC and EIC has worked out a possible roadmap on the request from members of both organisations. This roadmap has been discussed in both organisations, and the outcomes of these respective discussions and votes will provide a base for future conversations about alternative approaches.”