FRANKFURT, Germany – Twenty-nine politicians, together with 65 meetings industry leaders and keynote speakers, met yesterday to analyze and debate the full economic value of the global meetings industry at the annual IMEX Politicians Forum.
The forum’s influence and reputation has grown measurably over the past few years. The result is that political representatives traveled from as far afield as Sweden, Greece, Austria, Hungary, Canada, Korea, Croatia, Poland, Cyprus, Germany, Denmark, Scotland, France, and Australia to discuss the key issues shaping the industry’s future and its power to generate true economic return at a local level. For the first time, the forum also included the CEOs of several convention and visitor bureaus who attended with a view to increasing their lobbying efforts and inviting their local politicians next year.
The day’s program began with a welcome by Michael Hirst OBE, chairman of the Business Visits and Events Partnership and director and treasurer of The Tourism Alliance UK. In his capacity as director of international development for the International Association of Convention Centres (AIPC), Rod Cameron then presented a case study on how to leverage “Meetings and Conventions as strategic tools for economic development.” Further opening remarks were made by Leigh Harry, president of the Joint Meetings Industry Council (JMIC) and president of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA); Olivier Lepine, chairman of the Convention Division of European Cities Marketing (ECM); and Edgar Hirt, president of the International Association of Convention Centres (AIPC).
As Ray Bloom, IMEX Group chairman explained to the group: “Each year the forum provides a unique and powerful opportunity for two highly-influential groups of people to meet in private and debate those issues that are presenting the biggest challenges or opportunities in their respective worlds. It is always fascinating and informative. More importantly this kind of dialogue is vital to the future of the industry. If we do not continue to make the time and effort to understand each others’ objectives, demands, and even language, we do the global meetings industry and its political representatives a huge disservice.
“We all bore witness to the forceful rearguard action that the US meetings industry had to take last year. That provided a sobering reminder to us all that political dialogue and engagement is absolutely essential if the industry is not to be misunderstood or even unintentionally misrepresented.”
The day’s speakers included Hein Verbruggen, president of SportAccord and honorary member of the International Olympic Committee, who shared his insight and experience of “How an Olympic event enriches a destination.” Later in the day, Australian MP, Bruce Baird, spoke passionately about the ongoing advocacy work being delivered by one of Australia’s most influential lobby groups. Mayor of Le Touquet, Daniel Fasquelle also shared his experience of working with a recently-formed French lobby group – France Terre de Tourisme.
Samuel Koo, president and CEO of the Seoul Tourism Organisation described the lessons learned recently when Seoul set out to establish strong and successful relationships between the city’s meetings industry and its officials and politicians. He commented, “The delegates were very attentive with lots of relevant questions, which helped to increase understanding of the complexities of the meetings industry, especially the distinction between it and tourism.”
Daisy Jarva of the Tallinn City Council (Estonia) said: “The forum is a fantastic idea, as I have for many years been pushing for improving the understanding of the meetings industry to the community as a whole. As far as Tallinn is concerned, leisure and business tourism represents nearly 15 percent of our GDP. Put simply – the taxes from this sector alone pay for all the teachers’ salaries in Tallinn.”
Mayor of Ville de Quebec, Regis Labeame, added: “The important message here is that venues and politicians must work together. It seems obvious to me as it is more common in North America where local level politicians are really aware of the importance of conventions. They care about them.”
Throughout the day, forum delegates also heard individual case studies and insights from Australia, Denmark, France, and Quebec.
The IMEX Politicians Forum is co-organized each year by ECM (European Cities Marketing) and AIPC (International Association of Congress Centres) and held under the auspices of JMIC (Joint Meetings Industry Council).
The next IMEX will take place May 24-26, 2011 at Messe Frankfurt.
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