Brussels Hosts EU Dialogue – Advocating Transformative Impact of Meetings Industry

Monday, 29.04.2024
With over 180 professionals and policymakers from 15 countries, the recent EU Dialogue event in Brussels highlighted the vital role of the meetings industry in driving economic growth and fostering innovation.

Photo: Remy

Recently, Visit Brussels in partnership with several key organizations including JMIC (Joint Meetings Industry Council), CityDNA (City Destinations Alliance), and EEIA (European Exhibition Industry Alliance), hosted the event EU Dialogue: Driving Positive Change In The Meetings Industry which attracted over 180 industry professionals and European policymakers from 15 different countries and EU member states.

The conference aimed to shed light on the often underestimated contributions of the meetings industry to economic growth and prosperity. With Brussels serving as the host city, it garnered plenty of attention from senior officials and institutional stakeholders.

The event facilitated discussions among attendees, with insights shared by 52 speakers. These discussions covered a wide array of critical topics including sustainability initiatives, mobility, the impact of EU trade policies on business events, talent development strategies, and the importance of digital innovation within the industry.

One key theme that emerged was the industry’s broader impact beyond only tourism, emphasizing the concept of the Visitor Economy, which encompasses the entire ecosystem related to hosting events. Patrick Bontinck, CEO at Visit Brussels, highlighted the industry’s potential to promote diversity, equality, and sustainability, urging for sustainable changes in operations. “We now have a clear idea of how the sector can contribute to organising events that highlight the advantages of a destination, its intellectual capital and its infrastructure, while maximising its overall impact towards greater diversity, equality and inclusion, but also towards an industry that is aware of social and environmental issues and is ready to make sustainable changes to the way it operates.”

Discussions also touched upon the sector’s challenges, including the fragmented nature of data and statistics, which hampers its representation in official records. Attendees emphasized the need for clearer industry presence in official national, European, and global statistics to gain recognition from governments and policymakers. According to David Boon, UFI European Chapter Chair for EEIA, it became clear “that the business events and exhibition sector is fragmented and complex, which is reflected in a multitude of data and studies produced by the sector itself and a striking lack of representation in any official statistics. In order to be visible to and recognised by governments and policymakers on all levels, it needs a clear presence with some basic data in official national, European and global statistics”.

Petra Stušek, President of City Destinations Alliance, emphasized the symbiotic relationship between tourism and the meetings sector. “They are essential for the visitor economy, which can benefit the destinations’ social inclusion, cultural offering and relations, knowledge societies and local communities. It’s important to embrace the existing tools at the European level like the Tourism Transition Pathway which is aligned with meetings industry challenges. We share many goals with the European Union, and we need to speak with one voice while still embracing all components and illustrating the diversity and relevance of our sector. Continuing this dialogue is key to ensuring Europe’s competitiveness, resilience and sustainability.”