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September 8, 2015

IMEX: Politicians Forum Examined Attracting Meetings to a Destination

"How do I attract more meetings and events to my destination?"

That was the central theme of the 2015 IMEX Politicians Forum held in Frankfurt earlier this year as the annual gathering once again brought a group of politicians and meetings industry leaders from all over the world to share insights into the valuable contribution of the meetings industry to the development of knowledge economies.

A complete summary of the discussion is now available, along with interviews from leading participants. 

This year’s Forum provided politicians with an insight into and appreciation of how the benefits from meetings and events go beyond tourism revenue. It showed that by reaching into the fields of science, technology, education and regional commerce, the benefits are wide ranging and broadly integral to the economic development of a country, region or city.

Moderator Michael Hirst summed up what destinations want to gain from investment in the meetings industry: “All of you,” he concluded, “are seeking sustainable solutions to strong economic development.”

Keynote Address

That the keynote address was delivered by Professor Mary O’Kane, chief scientist and engineer of New South Wales, reflected the integration of research and academia with the meetings sector and business tourism in developing a knowledge economy.

“National, regional and local economies are increasingly knowledge intensive,” she said in opening her presentation. “Knowledge is a fast-moving, ephemeral global commodity. If your knowledge economy is going to be successful you need to be able to access leading edge developments in knowledge and translate them into local things.”

During the open discussion, there were many interventions from both politicians and industry leaders. For example, Jon Mamela of the Canadian Tourism Commission explained that Business Events Canada has aligned the organization's sales and marketing activity around the Federal Tourism Strategy, but also with Canada’s Global Markets Action Plan in seven key verticals.

South Africa’s Business Events Strategy

The Deputy Minister of the South African National Department of Tourism, Tokosile Xasa, explained that South Africa`s business events strategy is aligned to six sectors: manufacturing, mining and metals, business process outsourcing, creative industries, life sciences, and ICT.

“Hosting major events in these sectors contributes to growing our knowledge economy and delivers micro-economic benefits in tourism,” she said. 

Following a video intervention from SAP chief executive and IMEX Opening Ceremony keynote Bill McDermott to attendees of the Forum, Paul Van Deventer, chief executive of MPI (Meeting Professionals International) agreed: “Planners want to improve delegate numbers, realize a great experience, and feel that they are getting great value for money. But, importantly for destinations, they need to invest in building and maintaining relationships and trust. They also need to develop a unique offer and this can be a cultural experience or a specialty in a sector or industry vertical.”

Iceland – Location is Significant

Ragnheidure Elin Arnadottir, Minister of Industry & Commerce for Iceland, explaining that location and accessibility have a significant bearing upon business (or governmental) events destination selection, emphasized that by being just three hours from anywhere in Europe and only five hours from the east coast U.S., location can be a major draw.

The emphasis on alignment to government sector development strategy and local expertise was consolidated by Matthias Schultze, managing director of the German Convention Bureau, which has recently conducted research into what it is that conference organisers want from destinations. The answer, he said, “is knowledge.”

“These excerpts from our review of the Politicians Forum provide a taste of the many valuable contributions that were made by politicians and industry leaders in the discussion," Ray Bloom, Chairman of the IMEX Group said in a statement. "The level of debate and engagement were very impressive and indicate that our efforts to raise awareness at the highest level of the benefits of the meetings industry and the evolving role of meetings in economies are achieving a positive impact.”

The next IMEX Politicians Forum takes place on Tuesday April 19, 2016 at IMEX in Frankfurt. Politicians who would like to express an interest in participating in 2016 should contact [email protected].

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About the Author: James Latham

James Latham





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