The message repeated more than any other at this year’s Politicians Forum at IMEX 2010 in Frankfurt was that meetings are integral to the economic development process. Recognizing events in this way, according to a report on the Forum published today, benefits national and local governments and the people they serve. The rewards, the report highlights, are much more than financial – the real value of meetings is what they achieve for the delegates, the organization, and the wider community.
With Michael Hirst OBE, chairman, UK Business Visits Events Partnership, acting as moderator, the forum also provided a platform to discuss the differences between business tourism (meetings, conventions, and exhibitions) and leisure tourism. There was also strong emphasis this year on the positive impact that hosting other types of events – sporting, celebratory, governmental, and cultural – has on the future meetings business and growth of the host destination. The Value Judgement: Hear from Rod Cameron live from the Politicians Forum on why it’s time for businesses to take meetings more seriously
One of a series of IMEX “New Vision” Projects, the Politicians Forum is held every year under the auspices of the Joint Meetings Industry Council (JMIC) whose membership comprises international meetings industry associations. The Forum is organized by IMEX in collaboration with European Cities Marketing (ECM), a network of leading tourist offices and convention bureaus representing 100 cities in 32 European countries, and the International Association of Congress Centres (AIPC). Now in its eighth year, the 2010 Forum was attended by a record 32 politicians and civic leaders from 16 countries and 63 worldwide meetings industry representatives.
STRATEGIC TOOLS FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Michael Hirst introduced the first speaker, Rod Cameron, director of international development for AIPC, who discussed meetings and conventions as strategic tools for economic development. He said: “We tend to measure our success in terms of increased tourism spending from delegates, but nobody plans, organizes, or attends a meeting in order to stay in a hotel room or dine in a restaurant. The outcomes are what it is all about: achieving things such as professional development, knowledge transfer, research and product development, business advancement, technology development, and education and innovation.”
His address called for politicians to embrace the wider benefits of hosting events: “By hosting events you get the chance to profile yourself, show off your local community, build networks, and do all of the things that will help you advance not just your tourism business but your whole economic development strategy.”
Samuel Koo, president and CEO of the Seoul Tourism Organization, provided an interesting insight into the development of Korea as an international destination for the meetings and events industry. Noting that it was an industry still in its infancy in South Korea, Samuel discussed how recent successes had helped to win over a government that was initially sceptical about the return on investment that business tourism could bring.
Hein Verbruggen, president, SportAccord, and honorary member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), discussed some of the important benefits that host cities gain from staging an international games. Using Beijing and Vancouver as his examples, Hein highlighted the revamp of urban areas, improvements in sustainability and social legacy, and the blaze of media attention that generates unrivaled opportunity for a destination to promote itself to the world, as some of the key advantages.
Among the other speakers at this year’s forum were: Leigh Harry, JMIC president and CEO of the IMEX award-winning Melbourne Convention Centre Australia; Olivier Lepine, chairman, Convention Division, ECM and director of Biarritz Tourism, France; Edgar Hirt, president AIPC and managing director, Congress Centre Hamburg; Regis Labeaume, Mayor of Quebec City, Canada; and Svend Olling, head of department, Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Denmark.
Further presentations on topics such as how conference centers can support economic growth, a year’s worth of events in Quebec City, and a look at how Denmark planned and staged one of the largest ever political events, the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, prompted great debate among delegates.
A full copy of the Politicians Forum Report plus a shorter summary is available online at http://www.imex-frankfurt.com/politforum.html
Destination marketing companies, convention centers, tourist offices, and other organizations are invited to nominate their local politician to receive an invitation to next year’s IMEX Politicians Forum. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
The IMEX Group also plans to hold an equivalent forum for North American political representatives when IMEX America launches in Las Vegas in October 2011.