That was the pragmatic theme of the 2015 IMEX Politicians Forum as the successful annual gathering once again brought a distinguished 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 revealing summary of the fascinating discussion is now available, along with interviews from leading participants. www.imex-frankfurt.com/events/forums/politicians-forum-2015-review
This year’s Forum gave politicians an essential insight and appreciation of how the benefits from meetings and events go well beyond valuable 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 OBE 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.”
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 valuable interventions from both politicians and industry leaders. For example, Jon Mamela of the Canadian Tourism Commission explained that Business Events Canada has aligned the organisation’s sales and marketing activity around the Federal Tourism Strategy, but also with Canada’s Global Markets Action Plan in 7 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 6 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) commented; “Bill said it all. Planners want to improve delegate numbers, realise 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
Mrs 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 3 hours from anywhere in Europe and only 5 hours from the east coast US, 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.”
Ray Bloom, Chairman of the IMEX Group commented: “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. 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.
“I wholeheartedly recommend reading this review.”