ROI. “Turbulent times concentrate the minds,” observed Martin Sirk pointing to crowded meetings, active networking and lively conversation among the 740 delegates of the 47th ICCA Congress and Exhibition from 1 to 6 November 2008 in Victoria, Canada. The CEO of the International Congress and Convention Association was very happy.
With its population of 75,000, small but smart Victoria did a great job, MECC CEO Leigh Harry remained ICCA President, Barack Obama was elected new US president, the new strategic plan was in place, and delegates were focused. They even wanted to measure their output for the first time with the ROI manual: “It is apparent how seriously everybody is taking their time here!”.
So lots of serious work at the congress, which often feels like a happy family reunion with members from a record-breaking 66 countries. Networking was supported by Spotme, (business) friends and colleagues were greeted and first-timers warmly welcomed.
And within the sectors that were newly created in 2007 – e.g. merging the formerly divided hotel and venue chapters – there was a sense of familiarity. “There were some concerns about combining venues and hotels, but this not even has been an issue. We had fun together,” confirmed chairman Alec Gilbert, CEO of Adelaide Convention Centre. His “Venues Sector” has 312 members including 29 new ones. The ICCA Venue Comparison Report, published every two years since 1988, was the focus of attention.
The ever-growing Central European Chapter offered another survey hot off the printer’s press. It focused on the economic crisis and competition and included 45 CVBs, venues, hotels and agencies from 10 countries.
And how can one compensate for a crisis? The world economic situation is the sword of Damocles for meetings and was talked about directly in the open-space discussion on “Economic Turmoil”. The panel included venues, hotels and PCOs from South Africa, Denmark, Australia, Spain, the Philippines, Switzerland, China und Germany.
“We currently have a financial event running, for which the budget has been cut in half,” reported Alicia Yao, Director of Sales in the meetings and incentives department of China International Travel Service. Rashid Toefy, CEO of Cape Town International Convention Centre pointed out falling attendance figures and reduced F&B spending over the last three months.
But a new laid-back feeling is noticeable, lessons have been learnt from other crises and reviews – or is this just the calm before the storm? First the panel discussed the opportunities of a self-adjusting market, with new hopes and prices. “We need a good product and innovation,” stressed Anna Hübner of VisitAarhus. “We need to show cost saving opportunities,” added Yao.
“Creativity is not a luxury that can only be considered when times are good” were the opening words of President Leigh Harry. “In times of economic turmoil, we get rid of creativity. We cut costs and offer more basic services when what the clients need is creative help.” Hence seminars on future issues, the economy, and personal topics like burn-out and co-operation were well attended. And “Multinational Companies and the Evolution of their Meetings”, “21st Century Events” and Elling Hamsø’s “Will the Generation XYZ Meet in the Future”, where he talked about Facebook, video games and networking attracted a lot of attention.
Inspiration was provided, among other things, by the Best Marketing Award, which candidates like the CVBs of Salt Lake City and Sarawak (Borneo) and the new Arena & Convention Centre Liverpool hoped to win. Of this heterogeneous group, the award went to Sarawak. “The ICCA Congress should be a place where you can consider the wildest new ideas; where you can test out new concepts,” ICCA President and MECC CEO Leigh Harry motivated the audience. The next ICCA will definitely benefit from dolce vita in Florence, Italy, from 7 to 11 November 2009.
Focused. Vancouver Island is the home of Victoria, the capital of British Columbia. A resort destination on the west coast of Canada that hardly distracts meeting-goers but has a lot to offer. The flagship of the 75,000-strong city with its Mediterranean climate is The Fairmont Empress with 477 rooms and its adjacent Victoria Conference Centre with 3,716 sqm of space and an auditorium for 1,450 people. The Crystal Garden with 2,323 sqm of event space is a new addition to the conference centre’s portfolio. In total, 3,500 rooms can be reached on foot in the Convention District. “My city is the best kept secret in the world for international conventions,” boasts mayor Alan Lowe, who relentlessly promoted the ICCA Conference. ICCA CEO Martin Sirk is very happy with the result. “Victoria worked very well for a conference of our size, the people are very service-minded.” Victoria will be even more in the spotlight during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and as a destination for social programmes, as soon as Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre opens its gates again with an additional 80,000 sqm in spring 2009. www.tourismvictoria.com , www.victoriaconference.com _____________________________________________________________