The JMIC Manifesto – Economic Recovery Using Business Events Part 1

The JMIC Manifesto – Economic Recovery Using Business Events Part 1

Welcome to part 1 of the JMIC Manifesto webinar: Economic Recovery Using Business Events. For ease of access, we have transcribed the recording of this webinar so that you can access all the insights from the manifesto in blog format.

In this part of the webinar, Greg Clark, Robert Coren and the industry panel discuss the purpose and value of business events, the role meetings play in developing cities, and the role of associations in the industry.


Kai Hattendorf: Good morning, good day, good evening, wherever you may be watching this. And on behalf of the whole global JMIC Community, welcome to this webinar!

Now, what we’re trying to do here today is to bring together a best off when it comes to our industries approaches to COVID-19.

Now, we’ve all heard it, we’ve all said it: this is an unprecedented situation, and certainly the biggest threat to our industry I’ve experienced in my professional career, and I think the same goes for many of you.

So it is really, really important that as an industry we find ways to align the way we argue. We find ways to speak with one voice. We find ways to be as diverse as we are as an industry. A United industry when we talk to decision-makers, when we talk to lawmakers, when we talk to those who we rely on to get back our license to operate. And also, to have the right words and messages in place to convince our customers, the communities we work for, that it is safe to return to events of all kinds around the world.

Just as we have changed and adapted to needs before, our industry will change and adapt to the needs and rise to the challenge that COVID-19 gives us. How fast we succeed, and how our industry looks on the other side, how many jobs we can save, how many new business we can generate – this is up to us, and the support we can give our respective members and communities, right now when we are probably, as associations, more needed than we’ve been in a long time.

Thank you for your time, thank you for watching this, and I hope you have an insightful session.

Robert Coren: Hello, and a very warm welcome from London to the iceberg. If you’ve not come across us before, we’re an online platform dedicated to celebrating the legacies of business events. Not the smaller visible tip of hotel and travel spending that pokes up above the surface, but the much greater and weightier longer-term benefits to society that lie hidden beneath the water, harder to see and also difficult to measure the true impact of holding meetings.

The iceberg is presented by the ‘Joint Meetings Industry Council’ (JMIC), and JMIC is in the process of creating a manifesto for economic recovery, using business events. A template or toolkit for industry advocacy to help the sector around the world position the safe reopening of meetings as a solution to the economic rebuilding necessary in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was decided to hold this webinar to support discussion around the manifesto, and four iconic industry events have joined forces to sponsor our content today – AIME, the asia-pacific incentives and meetings event; IMEX, in its new planet IMEX platform; IBTM and its new IBTM Connect platform; and Meetings Africa. A huge thanks to all of those for collaboration in crisis, indeed.

We have an extraordinary cast of contributors coming up, not to mention the remarkable mind of Professor Greg Clark, global advisor on Cities. But our first stop is Canada, and JMIC’s own Rod Cameron.

Rod Cameron: Well thanks, Robert! I just want to say a very few words about the manifesto itself, which is what this process all today has been revolving around. I think we all appreciate that, as an industry, we are a global industry. But in terms of the decisions that are being made around the future of our industry, particularly today, most of these are being made locally, and they fall really into two categories because it’s all about reopening. Within the reopening envelope we’ve got the question of ‘How?’, and we’ve got the question of ‘Why?’. The ‘How?’ is really around the question of how it is we can reactivate events and welcome delegates while still respecting the kinds of health and safety protocols that have been put in place in those communities, and the decisions that have to be made by local authorities to let us actually do that. But ‘Why?’ is a little more complicated, it revolves around the question of why it is we should be receiving a priority in a situation where there are so many looking for government detention and government priority. And our answer there has been consistently: because we are uniquely positioned to be able to drive, not only economic recovery, but also economic transition, economic renewal of a sort that’s going to be desperately important to governments around the world, coming out of the recessions, that are deriving from the pandemic all over the world, right now.

Now, to pull this kind of a document together and address those issues we need two things: the first is good input from the industry itself, from industry leaders that can capture the breadth, and the implications and the examples that we need to tell our story effectively; and secondly we need good advice from experts on the outside with experience in dealing with local government local decision-making, and advise us as to how we can best deliver those messages in this kind of a time. And of course, in that regard, we could not possibly have had a better resource than Greg Clark, and we thank him for his generosity, and in sharing that knowledge with us.

With those two components in place, I think we could say confidently that within a very few days we’ll have a final version of the manifesto, that does reflect that input. At the same time, we will have a package, an aggregation of all of the input received in the process of developing it, and which can be used to come up with specific examples and variations on the themes that people can adapt, and use in their own situation. Thank all of you for participating in that process, and making this manifesto possible. We hope it will be a useful tool to you and your members going forward, and that you will continue to contribute your thoughts around this process, as it evolves, because it is an evolving process, and we’ll need to keep updating on a regular basis. With that, back to you Robert!

Robert Coren: Rod, thank you! As Rod was hinting there, a large amount of discussion has already been contributed in the creation of the JMIC Manifesto for Economic Recovery using business events – much of it in video form. More than two dozen of the sector’s established and emerging leading lights have either submitted their own video recordings to us for this programme, or zoomed with my colleague James Latham (the founder of the iceberg) – it does keep James out of mischief. So before I introduce Greg Clark, let’s go to this panel first, to remind ourselves of what meetings and the meetings industry actually are, and what the world is now without face to face business events.

Matthias Schultze: What is the purpose of business events? Conventions, congresses and events are platforms for exchanging experiences and ideas.

Oscar Cerezales: We not only create communities, we grow communities, we engage communities, we activate communities via events, and actually, we even monetize communities.

Caroline Teugels: The impact of a congress isn’t only economic, but is so much bigger for the individual who participates in the congress and gets inspired, or inspire his or her peers from all over the world. But also the legacy of the event: from the city, the local community, the region, and the world.

Sisa Ntshona: Their contribute was the body of knowledge about a specific area or topic. Their contribute was the evolution of that particular space. When great minds get together they tend to come up with solutions.

Carina Bauer: Businesses and governments everywhere, over the past years, have recognized that the most efficient and effective way to communicate is through live events. So that’s why we were on a high in January 2020, you know we must remember that and must convey that in our messaging.

Lyn Lewis-Smith – You know, the world has changed and is absolutely turned upside down, and stopped in its tracks, as in terms of us procuring or acquiring international events.

Lesley Williams: We’ve fought tirelessly for our industry to be recognized by national governments, by local governments, by city fathers. And it’s tragic, tragic, that our industry has practically had to crumble before governments realized just how valuable the meeting’s industry is.

Geoff Donaghy: The 35 billion dollars that the industry creates in Australia of course is no longer happening, therefore that money is not flowing through to our hotels, the restaurants, the taxis, the entertainment, but also not to the small farmers and producers of the wine growers that we buy our produce from.

Maurits Van Der Sluis: And everybody sees there’s a lot of money missing. So there’s a lot of people who don’t have work, and there’s a lot of countries that are going bankrupt.

Alessandro Cortese: We see the influence of an absence of the meetings industry, at the moment, with less interaction going on at a scientific level within groups, research groups over the world. Less transfers between the business world, and the research and science development worlds.

Tommy Goodwin: And your elected officials go: okay, it’s not just that I missed the events business right now, because I’m not seeing those heads in beds, and it’s creating some budgetary problems on me. It’s like all of a sudden all these other challenges in my community aren’t being met as well. The universities are missing the collaborations, local governments who are getting boosts from experts, providing their expertise free of charge, or being able to leverage knowledge that was creating this event, all of the sudden those went away too.

Martin Boyle: Government is so serious about their economic and social recovery, should be looking for drivers to facilitate this. I believe that the business and professional events industry is such a driver, and will do just that.

Kai Hattendorf: Exhibitions and business events are the meeting places and the marketplaces that everyone needs, that societies needs, that communities need, that industries need, to recover after COVID-19.

Shane Hannam: We are a real driver in that, and that’s I think the main point that, the one clear message we need to get across with one clear voice.

James Rees: It driver for transformation and the perfect platform for introducing a destination to these knowledge rich communities, which then in turn can help to secure the talent, the investment, and the knowledge transfer that they require.

Carina Bauer: We know what we’ve lost by live events not taking place. And it’s important that as soon as it’s safe to do so, we can reinvigorate those live events and come together, and to communicate in the most effective way that we know, which is face to face.

Robert Coren: In part one of this webinar, we’re looking at meetings, and the role they rightly play in developing city destinations of all sizes. We’ll also be talking about associations, their events, and the amazing legacies they can leave in partnership with cities. In part two, we’ll look at meeting in the age of the pandemic, and we’ll get to discussing advocacy, and the manifesto in more detail. Taking us through this journey is one of the greatest contemporary thinkers on urban development consulting today. Professor Greg Clark is a global advisor on cities to many and varied institutions working with businesses, governments, and over a hundred cities on strategies for development, and investment. His unique take on the role meetings play in urban development, has made him a star keynote in recent years, at a number of major industry events. Greg Clark, a very warm welcome to the iceberg.

Greg Clark: Robert, thank you very much! Great pleasure to be here. And looking at the opening video, of course, we’re reminded that so many of the important business meetings that happen in the world, happen in cities. And I’ve previously said at various events convened by the industry, that this is a very important sector for cities. This provides to city’s strategic connections, assets, amenities, and infrastructures, they wouldn’t otherwise have. The meetings industry produces a long term legacy for the city, not just in terms of how its economy emerges, but also in terms of the breadth of its supply chains, and its participation. I’ve said at various times that all cities are in different stages of their own economic development and diversification, and business events contribute towards that. And much more importantly I would say, business events have the ability to project the soft power of a city. Business events are kind of a metaphor for the convening capabilities that cities have, and they’re also a way of delivering precise messages, stories about that city to a globally mobile and high value audience. So what’s not to like about business events and the role they play in cities? But COVID-19 has come along and you’ve just heard from industry leaders that it’s already had this significant effect of cancelling many events, and the cost of not being able to meet has become very clear.

Now I’ve been doing quite a lot of work looking forward to how the new normal may be different to the old normal that we had before COVID-19. And there are seven quick themes I want to rehearse for you now, because I want to talk about how they’re going to affect the meetings industry moving forward.

The first of these is what sometimes called the sovereign capability agenda. This is about supply chains, it’s about trade routes, it’s about the fact that COVID-19 has revealed that the push for efficiency, in the way supply chains have worked, has reduced the resilience of those supply chains simultaneously, but unintentionally. So whether the concern is for medical supplies, whether it’s for pharmaceuticals, food, drinking water, energy oil-gas, or whether it’s to do with critical components for national industries. Both national governments and major corporates have become concerned that the form of globalization we were pursuing before COVID-19 was not resilient, and therefore not fit for purpose when a crisis like that came. Therefore we’re seeing a new agenda emerge about nations trying to be more self-sufficient, at least in goods that are critical for national security. And we’re seeing companies trying to diversify their supply chains and their inputs. This creates, of course, major challenges in some locations that have been at the end of these value chains, but it creates very important opportunities for some cities and regions to diversify their economy, and to re-shore, on-shore, or near-shore. Some of us call this the ‘just-in-case’ agenda, as opposed to the ‘just-in-time’ agenda.

The second big theme that’s emerged has obviously been the massive uptick in digitization that’s happened during the lockdown process. Whether we’re talking about video conferencing and flexible working, or whether the focus is on telemedicine and distance learning. Or whether it’s about the online use of entertainment channels, and other kinds of platforms. Or the pickup for example in eSports and eGaming. Or whether we’re simply focused on online retail, and delivery models. This massive uptick in digitization has led to the reform of lots of business models in various sectors, moving towards the ‘as a service’ business model much more quickly. And of course we’ve had meetings as a service begin to evolve from this.

The third big theme, of course, is about human health. Coronavirus has revealed as it were, not just inadequacies in certain healthcare services in certain countries, but it’s also revealed massive inequalities in the way that people entered the pandemic. In terms of their health status and condition, elderly people, people with respiratory diseases, people from minority ethnic groups, all of whom being much more severely attacked than others, and inequalities of course in the way that health care services have been available. This has been revealed in a stark way, that has led to a big shift in public opinion about how healthcare services might need to be resourced in the future, and what will be considered a fair healthcare system.

Now respiratory health has a close connection with air quality, and this leads on to the fourth point that’s emerged from coronavirus, which is that the link between human health and planetary health has become much clearer as a result. Not only do people with respiratory diseases experience worst infections in terms of coronavirus, and that links back to air quality and carbon emissions, but the virus itself originates in our interventions through our food supply systems in the animal kingdom in biodiversity, and everything we know about where this virus began tells us that there’s something about our food systems that needs correction. At the same time the lockdown experienced during the pandemic has given people the opportunity to live a low touch, low contact, low mobility, low carbon way of living, which has been a kind of a demonstration project, a kind of proof of concept that shows that certain kinds of low carbon living, and low carbon working, are more feasible than perhaps we thought before. All of this is likely to lead to a greater push towards sustainability, and net zero carbon, in the way we try to recover from the economic crisis that’s about to unfold. And you can see this already with the green recovery programs that are being put in place in Europe and Asia Pacific.

The sixth big theme that’s emerged from coronavirus is a change of the relationship between citizens and national governments. On the one hand national governments have had to enact new laws, take more control, be highly prohibitive in terms of what people are allowed to do during the pandemic. And on the other hand, citizens have willingly shared their data, been told where to go, and what to do, what not to do in particular, and this has led in some countries to a new bond of trust between citizens and their governments. And in other countries, it’s led to a new kind of despair amongst citizens about whether their governments were up for the challenge. So I think this leads to a new set of sorting, or sifting, occurring between governments that have seemed to have done well, and governments that are seem to have done less well, a new debate about the role of government in people’s lives, as well as of course a big impact on our more global geopolitics, where we can see the relationships between China and the world, the US and the world, the US and China, and in general the climate for multilateralism perhaps being undermined a little bit by this new competitive nationalism orchestrated around this sovereign capability agenda.

The sixth big point concerns citizens themselves. Many people during this period of coronavirus have experienced a new kind of social capital, a new neighbourliness, mutual help, self-help, more charitable deeds, or growth in philanthropy. And for many people this has created a kind of a new sense of connection to one another, a new sense of belonging, and a desire to have this increased social capital, and increased localism, as part of their lives. On the other hand, you can see that coronavirus has led to intolerance of long lasting inequalities, that we can see playing out now in our news media. So on the one hand we have a citizenry that wants to embrace better connections, on the other hand we have an intolerance of inequality, and at the same time we have a massive uptick in digitization. So we think this could lead to the growth of philanthropy, efforts to address inequality in society, and potentially of course efforts to tax differently things like digital transactions, and to have a lower tolerance threshold as it were for tax havens and things like that.

Now these six themes come together with a seventh theme, which is about new spatial patterns – it’s rather obvious for anyone who lives or works in a city at the moment. That if you have this prolonged period of digital uptake, while we are waiting for a vaccine to arrive, then we’re going to need increased agility and flexibility in the way our real-estate systems work, particularly buildings that serve a single function (an office building, a sports stadium, a university campus, and of course a convention or Exhibition Centre), and we’re also going to need to have new ways of organizing our mobility and our transportation systems, to render them safe.

I think one of the implications of this is that in the long term will see a more distributed kind of urbanization. I’m not somebody who believes that this is the end of the century of the city, but rather that this provides opportunities for multiple locations to have a more distributed opportunity to engage in hosting key events, hosting certain kinds of jobs, and clusters, and other kinds of amenities. And it also provides people with more flexibility to either live closer to work by moving into the city center, or to work closer to where they live by enjoying the opportunities to be in a co-working center, that’s in a neighborhood or a smaller city or town.

So these seven imperatives that arise from the Corona-19 infection seemed to me to all have opportunities to influence the new normal, and they all have opportunities to create as it were new shaping mechanisms in the way the meetings industry re-emerges after COVID-19.

Robert Coren: Greg you very cleverly closed there with meetings, as you opened with meetings. Part of the reason the way you talk about cities has become so interesting to the meetings industry is the prominence you give to business events as a driver for urban development. Let’s explore for a moment that intersection that’s at the heart of why this sector is always so fascinated to hear what you have to say – cities and meetings.

Lesley Williams: Conferences should be seen as this strategic tool that they are to grow cities, and to reshape cities. In today’s world, a powerful way to rebuild them after the pandemic.

Martin Sirk: Competition is essentially going to be between cities. In terms of attracting start-ups, and attracting young people, of trying to pull money into their R&D and into their university systems.

Lyn Lewis-Smith: We’ve all said that if you can get the talent, the capital will follow. But the talent is important because it educates your workforce, and you get innovation and productivity gains. I do think our universities, and our start-up, and entrepreneurial community, is the backbone of our cities and we need to nurture that. That’s the new coming through. Events are important because when you host an event you showcase that capital to the world, and then that attracts capital.

Lesley Williams: Business events should not be sitting alongside tourism and culture. Their rightful place is in the economic engines of cities.

Gary Grimmer: This is not about leisure travel. This is about business travel. This is not about having fun and self-actualization, this is about knowledge exchange and learning, and developing industries, and developing trade, and developing science.

Martin Sirk: Old-school thinking is very difficult to actually shift. Bed tax has distorted the strategic overview, and it’s only when the DMO has managed to get a seat at the economic development table, and to interface with the inward investment arm and the intellectual capital arm of those cities, that things start to change. The Pioneers have very much encouraged a new wave of destinations to pick up on that.

Aileen Crawford: We talk about the percentages of conferences that are aligned to the key sectors of Glasgow’s economic leadership groups. And we measure the economic benefit from those conferences, for the benefit of the city.

Lyn Lewis-Smith:  It’s not just driving the visitor economy. It is driving a knowledge and innovation economy, and having up a set of measures that is far greater than the direct expenditure that you bring in from one particular event, and then you’re creating value client and via city.

Carina Bauer: People see destinations, like Sydney and Singapore, and they see how successful they are. Many politicians want to emulate that success, but they don’t understand that part of the reason for that success was their use of business events as a tool to drive that success. So those kind of case studies are very important and I think will be very powerful.

Robert Coren: Great! Let’s start with that opening statement from Leslie Williams, at BestCities. Conferences should be seen as strategic tools, to grow shape and rebuild cities. Do you agree with that?

Greg Clark: Well, it’s very clear! I believe that business meetings are part of the innovation capacity of the city, and I totally agree with Martin Sirk – that locating business meetings in some kind of tourism industry is to to get it wrong. You see, urban economies are a combination of consumption activities, production activities, and innovation activities. And increasingly urban economies are relying on their innovation activities to produce their new job space, to produce the diversification of their sectors, to produce their resilience, and to ensure that their economy moves through the cycles of the global economy, in ways that are advantageous. Now business events, it seems to me, are a strategic tool in those innovation ecosystems. As I said earlier, business events are part of the way the city brands itself to mobile talent, mobile capital, and mobile entrepreneurs.  Business events are the convening device that brings together the ecosystems in these innovative sectors. And business events are primarily the mechanism through which cities capture a larger share of those sectors within their territory. You see, in the past, conferences business meetings we used as it were to set standards, to generate exchanges of knowledge, to create the idea of professions emerging together. And much of that activity is possible to do now through digital and through online publications. But the area where face-to-face and face-to-place activity is really required, is in the emerging sectors where the highest rate of discovery and invention is taking place. So these are the sectors related to medicine, life sciences, pharmaceuticals. They’re the sectors related to the digital economy in all of its applications. They’re the sectors very much related to creative industries. And they’re related very importantly to the circular economy, in the many aspects of that that are happening, and also to what I would call the advanced urban services – the industries that are building, making, and managing our cities for us. These superclusters are innovation rich, and therefore they are convening heavy, they are clusters that require large numbers of people to get together, in order for those ecosystems to be more fertile, to be tighter, and to be deeper. So I expect to see over the next period of time, that cities play the critical role in convening these global ecosystems in certain places, and as a consequence of that those places become leaders in those new faster-growing sectors.

Now, I think that Lyn and Martin and colleagues were correct to say that competition underpins this. There’s a competition for talent in this, there’s a competition for ideas, there’s also a competition for mobile capital. And it’s the ability of cities to use business events to position themselves with a clear story, identity and brand, to convene effectively in such a way that they become the place where globally distributed ecosystems need to meet, and then their ability to link that indelibly into their indigenous institutions and economy that becomes critical.

So I agree with what was said. All I want to tell you is that this is not just a niche activity anymore. This is the way that cities are going to diversify their economies, and they’re going to march up the global value chains in the future.

Robert Coren: Greg, sometimes when we talk about the roles meetings have in developing cities, it seems we’re only referring to the larger star destinations that sit at the top of ICCA’s annual and hotly contested rankings. But leveraging the power of business and professional events is a game that can be played at all levels.

Arnaldo Nardone: Many cities are doing that, for example: Buenos Aires, Bogota, San Paulo. But there are also another emerging cities that are trying to do that. Two years ago we gave an award to Punta del Este, for example, that is an emergency city in Uruguay. When they host the famous China-LAC event, that was not just economic impact. That was a bringing a lot of business creation, innovation for the whole region in Latin America. And that is what we have to show the governments – how this kind of events will help their economies for the recovery in these difficult times.

Senthil Gopinath: Our members from second and third tier cities, they are identifying what are the USPS. They’re looking at what their focus should be, which are the industries they should be in, rather than bidding for all larger events or events which are global in nature. Yeah, they are very becoming, very customized, very focused, and they also want to target associations, which are more suitable and qualified for their cities and their countries. So they’re looking at very strong intellectual capital, how do we build a knowledge economy, how do we contribute to our local society, more importantly how do we bring the social societal impact into our destination. And then based on that segment, whether its medical, whether its telecommunication, whether its technology, you bid for congress based on that value, get more government support and you get the local industry support as well, by doing so.

Gregg Talley: Literally any country can do that. Second, third tier, smaller cities, can do that if they’ve got a university and focus on it. It can happen. And it can make them worldwide capitals in a given industry. That’s pretty exciting stuff.

Tommy Goodwin: I am very curious about the future of work, and what it means for traditionally white-collar jobs needing to be in certain mega cities. And if there is a true technology revolution there, than you can begin to say “Hey! Maybe I don’t need to be in Washington, DC and paying whatever I pay here. I can go to Columbus, Ohio and pay a third of it!”. That’s a huge opportunity for those second and third tier destinations, combined with the business events, combined with their cluster, and their education, and healthcare system to, I mean, sustainable, generational change.

Greg Clark: Well, how interesting! And of course this agenda about midsize cities is a little bit of what I was talking about in relation to this new phenomena of distributed urbanization. So it’s very clear to me, that in these middle decades of the urban century that we’re now in, urbanization is taking on a new form. It’s not simply being clustered in the very larger cities in the world, but second, third, and indeed fourth tier cities, as they’re sometimes called, although I don’t think I really like this idea of tiers. But the smaller cities have a unique strategic opportunity to exploit the uptick in digitization, with the drive for high quality of life, with the opportunity that new generation of technologies provide us with to specialize in industries that are rapidly globalizing, but don’t necessarily require them to be a very big city. And if the smaller cities put this together with very high quality of life and an appealing story and brand, they can do incredibly well. I’m on the record as saying that I think it’s a hundred cities that now matter, not five to ten. And I think beyond that there are nearly six hundred cities in the world that have become important, in terms of the production of the new industries agenda that I was talking about a few minutes ago.

Now, whether all mid-sized cities are able to become successful destinations, I think depends upon some other functions. Obviously there are a very, very large number of midsize cities in the world. And it seems to me that the ones that are going to succeed are going to have the following characteristics: they’re going to have a high quality of life that translates into a great visitor experience; they’re going to have some indigenous science, technology knowledge, or natural asset that they’re able to leverage into an innovation proposition; they’re going to have to have of course enough physical connectivity to make visiting them for a business meeting work; but they’re also at the same time going to have to tell their story about their relevance to the world very well.

If we look back at what Kyoto, and Medellin, and Punto Alegre have done in the last period of time, you see there as an example three medium-sized cities that have become distinctively associated with certain kinds of agendas. It’s very important for medium-sized cities, not to just to try to be the likable option, but to also offer some very distinctive leadership on a very important agenda. Now having said all of that, I think there’s also a natural centre of gravity that’s going to occur in the larger cities in the world. It is the case that London, and New York, and Shanghai, and Tokyo, and Seoul, and Hong Kong, and Singapore, of course, are very competitive in this space for business events. And as they try to transition their own economies away from a dependence on things, like corporate headquarters, banking, other kinds of professional and creative industries, they’re moving into the space of competing with cities that used to be specialized in innovation sectors, including high-tech sectors. So I do think that the points made about a high level of competition are there. I think that the large cities are going to be very forceful in the way that they pursue this. I think a drop-off in the travel industry in terms of leisure travel, that’s been caused by COVID-19, will make it more difficult for destination cities to compete. And, therefore the medium-sized cities that do well, will have to have a really effective strategy. I must say I’m also very concerned about the destination cities – these are the locations that combine being a leisure tourism destination with being a meetings host. It’s not that I think there will be no more leisure tourism, it’s just that I think there will be two or three years of contraction before they grow again. And I think it’s more difficult for leisure tourism destinations to develop the kind of strategic Industrial links that are required between indigenous economies, local institutions, and others, and the subjects and themes of the business meetings that they host. So it means that for leisure destinations they’re going to have to work very, very hard, to be seen to be relevant places to go. And they’re also going to have to compensate for a slight drop off in their own connectivity, as the leisure travel industry goes through a reset.

Robert Coren: Let’s shift our focus away a little from the city, and back onto the meetings industry. One particular sector was very well represented in the views we canvassed for this webinar, and that’s that of associations. In this field, we not only meet, we also associate.

Caroline Teugels: Associations are nonprofit and offer purpose. The very nature of an association is to bring added values to its members, and thus to the society. And we change the world.

Chloe Menhinick: I think associations, in this way, are actually the veins that are nourishing the societal progress that we need to see. Because their member communities represent professionals and industries across the entire spectrum of technological, social, environmental, political, health, or scientific development agendas, which any destination has.

Tracy Bury: Association events bring together communities of practice, helping to facilitate collaborations, cross-sector cooperation, and chance meetings, to create and capitalize on the opportunities that come from meeting face-to-face.

Chloe Menhinick: And it’s here that we see the centrality of associations and their events to recovery, whose outcomes and the short-term will help drive the economic recovery that we need to see, but whose legacies in the long term will help ensure and sustain thriving destinations.

Tracy Bury: Association events will play a vital part in the recovery plans from this pandemic.

Lesley Williams: If you look at the best studies portfolio, you’ll find many examples of cities who have attracted events that match and support the vision of destination.

James Rees: And there is also a real focus on the harmonization of success criteria. So both the Association and destination can maximize their return on the hosting of each congress or convention.

Lesley Williams: Estro is a classic example. Estro has chosen Madrid and Copenhagen as partners for future conferences, because the Association and the city have the same shared vision to improve patient health care.

Alessandro Cortese: What we typically do is to use, I can say so, our Congress, not only as the major tool for scientific dissemination and it’s working between scientific communities, but also the catalyzer of opportunities for change.

James Rees: And an element of that is right at the front end, when the RFP comes out on the discussion around event outcomes happens before the destination has even been selected. I think the sensible cities and the wise cities and destinations are having those conversations really early in the lifetime, if you like, of that event. And that’s where the greatest successes are happening, I think. A change to that has been really looking at a long-term vision, saying: “Here’s an event we want to attract” – we know that if they’re going to come to our cities, we need to have a research program or a city investment in place. They don’t bid for the event, and then put it in place. They actually put it in place, and then go to the Association to say: “Look here’s our oncology program; here’s whatever it may be”. You’re often able to then fast-track the ability for that RFP and that bid to be won, because you’ve already got the foundations in place of what that Association is seeking.

Tommy Goodwin: Nobody really cared about sustainability truly, until people demanded in the RFP. We’re understanding what your needs are, you’re understanding what we can bring to the table, we’re able to bring those Venn diagram circles and overlap, and by the time we’re here, or by the time we leave, we’ve created something fantastic and sustainable.

Robert Coren: So, Greg, are cities more deeply understanding the knowledge that associations bring and the needs of those associations?

Greg Clark: Well, I think some cities certainly are, and I agree with the comments that have just been made in that video about the importance to cities, to localities, to regions, and indeed to smaller nations of being able to host associations. I agree also with the idea that associations are becoming increasingly choosy, increasingly discerning, and demanding, and they’re placing upon their hosts the requirement for them to demonstrate their innovation, partnership, their commitment to sustainability, their commitment to ESG, and all other things. And I agree absolutely that associations are a great accelerator of development for cities, regions, localities, and they provide them with unique, I think branding and storytelling and convening opportunities. So what’s not to like?! On the other hand, of course, associations themselves are going to be quite challenged in their own business models over the next few years. On the one hand, a rather deep recession we know often leads to reduced budgets for this kind of travel and convening, we know that the uptick in digitization is itself going to change the way they communicate with their members and ask their members to communicate, and we know also that restrictions in terms of travel which might last for some time, whether or not they’re justified, are going to have a dulling effect on this market so I see very clearly that associations are going to be more careful about how often they do face-to-face meetings and bring large cohorts together. And they’re going to have a much more of a blended model, which obviously they’ve been having for a while between the digital meetings and the real physical meetings. And so I think that the competition to get Association based meetings is really going to intensify, and that’s going to lead to destinations having to work much harder to get them. So I think all of that is going to be true.

I think the other great thing that we have to recognize here, is that increasingly what I would foresee is not just meetings of associations, but meetings between associations beginning to occur. We’re very aware now that the data scientists need to meet with the oncologists, and that the software engineers need to meet with the mobility providers, or that the engineering conferences need to have joint conferences now with the real estate conferences. Part of the impact of what we would call sector convergence, or clusterization in the economy, is that we frequently need to be able to convene more than one Association in the same place at the same time. And so, the destinations that are able to come forward with the exciting offers in that space, and to win as it were the support of more than one Association, to do some kind of combined event, I think will end up being super winners in this process.


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