An opportune moment

Expert Opinion
An opportune moment

ICCA CEO Senthil Gopinath talks about the global meetings industry recovering with purpose and customer orientation

Two years into the pandemic, we are seeing that the word ‘recovery’ means different things depending on where you are in the world and even who you’re talking to. Many regions of ICCA membership are back to around 90% meeting capacity while others are 70% or less, in accordance with local regulations. But no matter the capacity, the global outlook remains overall positive. International travel is on the rise. Destinations worldwide are ramping up marketing efforts for business events and investing in bringing people back. 

Governments are gradually understanding the socio-economic impact of business events. Over 74% of associations prefer face to face meetings and are preparing for their face to face meetings in 2022 and beyond. 

The outlook from venue and CVB sectors is very positive. Over 82% of CVBs have increased their marketing activities, enhanced their ambassador programmes and boosted bidding for meetings. 

We also see that, just as the meetings industry has evolved, so have our customers. The pre-pandemic meeting isn’t going to have the same appeal in today’s environment – it must be reinvented with experiential emphasis. To do this successfully, we need to get reacquainted with our customers and understand their new mindsets and motivations. One development we are already noticing is that, while people are eager to meet again face-to-face, they want to engage more purposefully. They expect intentional, thoughtful interactions that serve a larger goal. People are much less likely now to travel for a congress or convention that doesn’t offer strong business opportunities, purposeful experience, innovative content, and excellent value for the money. Our industry must move beyond commercial transactions to deliver transformational experiences. 

The pandemic has further highlighted the importance of engaging with local leaders and policy-makers. We were previously very focused on building strong ties with leaders in tourism and aviation. This is still a priority, but we now clearly see the impact that decisions handed down from other sectors, such as healthcare, can have on our industry. As such, we should diversify our advocacy campaigns and tailor our message to specific sectors. Furthermore, we must ensure political leaders and communities understand our key role within local economies. Of course, we create jobs and attract business tourism. But, as importantly, meetings are the starting point for solutions. They are facilitators of creativity and innovation – precisely what communities need in times of crisis. 

Another current challenge as we all know is attracting skilled professionals to the meetings industry workforce. In recent years (pre-pandemic), we perhaps haven’t been vocal enough about the diverse and unique opportunities that people gain from working in our industry. 

New graduates and young professionals can benefit immensely from the exposure they’ll receive in a variety of sectors. A PCO, for example, can interact with banking, healthcare, and academia all in one day. Our business is dynamic, exciting and rewarding. 

ICCA is working on new ways to ensure meeting services companies can attract and train new talent. Moreover, it’s imperative that all professionals, from juniors to executives, are equipped to achieve their fullest potential and elevate industry standards. 

Sustainability and DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) are two very important topics to ICCA. In fact, as of 2022, they are core pillars that support all our activities. We are committed to creating greater awareness and tangible solutions for making our industry more sustainable and equitable. It’s about putting our conversations into action. We aim to build momentum across industry sectors and ensure the meetings industry is at the forefront of these crucial issues. We as an industry should revive and restructure. It’s an opportune moment.

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