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April 6, 2008

Industry mergers point to the future

The face to face industry is preparing to compete more fiercely for client marketing budgets following the launch of two new industry bodies aimed at raising professional standards.

The two organisations say this will make it easier for clients to find the most suitable suppliers and establish the return on any investment they make in face to face marketing.

The Events Industry Alliance (EIA), launched in January, represents events organisers and venue owners. It will act as an umbrella organisation for three smaller trade bodies; the Association of Exhibition Organisers, the Association of Exhibition Contractors and the Association of Event Venues. All three member associations will continue to exist independently.

The main role of the new body is to serve as the industry's marketing arm. "The radio industry has the radio advertising bureau, the internet industry has the internet advertising bureau. Its high time our industry got its act together to make the generic case for what it can do," said EIA Group Chief Executive, Trevor Foley.

"We have been tasked with telling business leaders, academics the media and media planners about the huge prospects for business growth through the medium of face to face marketing."

He said that, for the first time, the EIA will employ someone full-time to talk to the government about the role that face to face plays in the British economy.

Meanwhile another new trade body, Eventia, also launched in January. A merger between the Incentive Travel & Meetings Association and the Corporate Events Association, its brief is to provide quality assurance for clients and share best practice among face to face marketing agencies.

"The immediate objective is for Eventia is to become the central point of contact for all organisations that provide business solutions through the use of events - both business-to-business and business-to-consumer," said Eventia chairman Nigel Cooper.

He added that Eventia's ambitions are not confined to the UK. "This is the first step towards a representative body embracing the broadest reaches of the events industry in the UK and throughout Europe. Increasing legislative intervention, in the shape of EU directives, government regulations and the growing focus on corporate liability, will place greater stress and expense in the lap of event organisers. An effective representative body will protect the interests of practitioners, suppliers and their corporate clients."

Membership of the new association will include event management agencies: organisers of conferences, incentive travel, corporate hospitality and live communications; together with their suppliers - travel and transport companies, tourist offices, venues and accommodation, professional and logistics support service providers.

Eventia says it will provide real benefits for clients and marketers as well as members. "This is a complex market place in which Eventia will act as a one-stop shop. Clients looking to source suppliers of events can come to us and find lists of conference producers, corporate hospitality providers, incentive travel firms. Whatever they need we will be able to guide them to the most appropriate supplier", said a spokesperson.

Both bodies said it was coincidental that they launched at the same time, although they are both responding to the same need for the industry to speak with a louder, clearer and better-informed voice to its various stakeholders. Both said they were aware of each other's existence and considered themselves as allies rather than rivals. "We're complementary not supplementary. We already talk to each other about a host of issues," said EIA's Foley.

Neither he nor an Eventia spokesman would rule out closer collaboration, raising the long-term prospect of a merger which might give the face to face industry one powerful marketing and lobbying voice.

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