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How the global meetings industry united to face the crisis

15-04-2022

Marica Motta, Sales Operations Coordinator at AIM Group, has participated in the IAPCO Task Force which developed joint recovery initiatives.

The International Association for Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO) brought together 14 National PCO Associations for the first time in its 52-year history. The Strategic Global Task Force of National PCO Associations connected to share Coronavirus-related data and case studies. The primary focus of the strategic task force was to use the combined expertise to create and distribute safe best practice guidelines for Professional Congress Organisers (PCOs) worldwide. Marica Motta, Sales Operations Coordinator at AIM Group International, took part on behalf of the Executive Board of Federcongressi & Eventi (the Italian National Association).

After almost two years, the Task Force presented its achievements and discussed future perspectives at the annual convention of the Hellenic industry association HAPCO. The online conference was attended by Martin Boyle CEO IAPCO; Irene Tolis President HAPCO & DES, MD ERA; Heather Lishman, Director of the Association of British Professional Conference Organisers, (ABPCO); Noel Mitchell, Managing Director of KeyNote PCO and Board Member of the Association of Irish PCOs (AIPCO); Alejandro Ramirez Tabche, Managing Director BTC Americas and President of the Mexican Council of the Meetings Industry; as well as Marica Motta.
Marica Motta presented a report on the impact of the pandemic on the Italian market and on the various initiatives of the Federcongressi & Eventi.

In Italy, the effects of the pandemic on the national meeting industry were highly disruptive.  According to a survey by Federcongressi, one week in March 2020 saw 800 meetings cancelled and another 1,200 postponed.

Also, a government regulation effectively closed down the meetings industry from March 2020 to August 2021, except for a short break in the summer of 2020.

The initiatives promoted by Federcongressi to support the industry in crisis included:

  • Participation in the #italialive joint initiative which brought together all the associations of the meetings & live events industry (including concerts, shows, etc.)
  • Institutional relations, with direct contacts with the main ministers including the Minister of Tourism, the Minister of Health and related undersecretaries. This facilitated a preview of draft regulations and sometimes permitted small suggestions and revisions.
  • Collaboration with the Government technical working group to define the guidelines to ensure the safe reopening of the organization of events.
  • Advocacy and strong pressure on institutions to support the sector, including economically.
  • The organization with #italialive partners of a demonstration in front of the Parliament and a series of high-impact events in some iconic squares of several cities across Italy.

On the other hand, some of the initiatives of the IAPCO Task Force include:

- The JMIC Global Manifesto – this sought to raise awareness at national and international level of the strategic impact of the meetings industry from an economic, social and scientific-cultural point of view as well as stressing that safe protocols were in place.

- The IAPCO PCO Perspective document which could be used with national decision makers and association members. It included plenty of useful information for organizing a safe event.

- The organization of a Forum where the IAPCO President Ori Lahav interviewed 5 Tourism & Development Ministers about the recovery of the Business Meetings & Events and Tourism sector.

- The sharing of safety regulations from each country which was very useful for keeping in mind the various rules in continuous evolution.

The task force is still active and continues discussions and collaboration.

What results have been achieved and what are the prospects for the future?

“Covid has had a dramatic impact on our industry. All the efforts we have spent over the last two years has yielded important results such as increasing the perceived value of the meetings industry and creating a greater understanding of our industry by governments. Now we start to see a restart in the national market and progress on the international one, albeit more cautiously, also due to the war in Ukraine”, explains Marica Motta.

Marica concludes “Hybrid is the trend of the future, but there is also a strong desire to meet again, so much so that we even notice an increase in attendance at national conferences compared to pre-pandemic editions. In my opinion, the keywords for the future are:

  1. Flexibility (be ready to always include various alternative solutions),
  2. Partnership (increase collaboration between all stakeholders in the supply chain),
  3. Vitality (be ready to react, reinvent yourself, be creative),
  4. Human Touch (technology and digitisation are fundamental tools, but the real driver of events remains human interaction)” .

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