Earlier this month, I found a new source of inspiration for my role in the meetings industry in a very unlikely place: sitting in a room with a bunch of politicians.
When most North American meeting professionals think of politicians, inspiration is probably the last word that comes to mind. The past few years have been dominated by a steady stream of headlines scrutinizing the value of face-to-face meetings, conferences and trade shows. However, at the IMEX Politicians Forum in Frankfurt last month, I learned there are plenty of political leaders who are very committed to using meetings to spur economic development.
You may have read the news of the agreement that the Joint Meetings Industry Council, United Nations World Tourism Organization and World Travel and Tourism Council signed at IMEX. The agreement will help all three organizations work more collaboratively as they aim to support the growth of our industry. They’ll align research efforts, advocate on behalf of meeting professionals and take big steps toward a sustainable future for the public and private sectors. It’s a big deal for a number of reasons, and it gives our industry a partnership that will pay off for many years to come.
LEARN: Marketing Strategies To Boost International Attendance
However, signing an agreement isn’t the main reason I’m feeling re-energized about the industry. It was the conversation in the room that helped me recognize that planners and suppliers across the world are making real progress in shaping a stronger global economy. From a US perspective, our borders are becoming friendlier to overseas attendees. Five years ago, 75 percent of travelers needed physical visas to enter the US. Today, that percentage is down to 66 percent. While there is still work to be done, that’s a big difference for welcoming a bigger international audience with fewer hassles.
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The most noteworthy progress is happening outside the US. By 2024, per the World Travel & Tourism Council one in every 10 jobs in the world will be related to travel, and we all know that the meetings industry plays hand-in-hand with the broader travel industry. All those new jobs that will be created over the next decade? Two-thirds of them will be in Asia. However, the economic engine won’t simply be powering growth in the usual suspects of China and India. Planners need to be thinking about where member/customer growth will be in 5, 10, 15 years and start the dialogue now.
Ever heard of the Republic of Azerbaijan? Don’t worry - I hadn’t either before IMEX. The country sits at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. The country’s new convention bureau was at IMEX for the first time. Ever thought of Namibia as an emerging destination? We heard how the country is using business events to develop the local economy.
Throughout the program, there was an air of contagious positivity about new international opportunities for meeting planners and their attendees. All too often, we dwell on the potential challenges of doing business in developing countries, but the reality is that governments in many of these places are investing heavily in eliminating any of those challenges for planners and their attendees. The map of the meetings industry will shift dramatically over the next decade, and I’m thrilled to watch as new cities and countries put big stars next to their names.
If you’re ready to ramp up your education on planning a meeting outside North America, the best place to start is PCMA’s OnDemand Global Professionals package. Click here to get started.