The many aspects of the critical interactions between convention centers and their respective communities was explored in depth and with the benefit of global city expertise at the AIPC Annual Conference, a global network recognizing excellence in convention center management, held July 5-8 in Boston. The overall conclusion: That center managers can and need to play a much more powerful role in the priorities and affairs of their cities in areas ranging from urban planning to branding and even economic policy setting.
“Centers play a huge and very visible role in both the functioning and profiling of their cities as well as in the broader issues of addressing both community and local government policy objectives,” said Geoff Donaghy, president, AIPC. “However, they are not always as engaged as they might be in the larger policy and decision processes that must respond to the changes taking place in most destinations today. What we learned at this conference is that we can and should be much more engaged in these processes, and that in doing so we will not only be doing a better job of serving our respective communities but at the same time enhancing our own future business prospects as well.”
Renowned city expert Greg Clark, destination branding specialist Chris Fair and urbanization academic Johannes Novy all addressed the various aspects of city development that are increasingly demanding a coordinated response from city administrations around the world. Included in these issues were areas such as the demands of economic evolution, the growing backlash against uncontrolled tourism and the need for a more integrated approach to developing and maintaining destination branding.
“While having distinctly different perspectives, all our key presenters ended up reinforcing the same core message, which was that center managers have a critical role to play in influencing the direction that planning, policy-making and branding are taking in their respective destinations,” Donaghy explained.
At a more practical level, delegates also addressed the evolving challenges of center safety and security in a more complex world; the priority issues of key partners such as the association, accommodation and exhibition communities and the available ways of responding to new technology demands in a cost-effective way. Rounding out the program were a host of very specific examples of how host city Boston was aggressively pursuing new kinds of interactions with its own business, professional and academic communities which served as case studies for many of the session topics.
Another highlight of the conference program was the awarding of the 2015 AIPC Innovation Awards, a bi-annual program that features a wide range of management, marketing, systems and technology concepts shared amongst members in an intense competition for center recognition. This year’s Overall Winner was the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center for its highly innovative new system of bundling short-term product offerings based on pre-set components, with the Delegate’s Choice Award going to the Halifax Convention Center for its launch campaign for a new facility now nearing completion.
Finally the conference included a General Assembly that charted the way for key administration decisions that will guide the association in the next few years. Included was the election of a number of Board and Executive Board members, including incumbent President Geoff Donaghy, to a second term as well as decisions on the location of future conferences, which now includes Nantes France for 2016 and Sydney Australia for 2017.
“We make a serious effort to ensure we attract the best available expertise to our events both from within the industry itself as well as in the areas where we interface with the broader global economic, academic and governmental areas that shape so much of our working environment,” continued Donaghy. “By doing this we are better able to anticipate and help shape issues before we are confronting them, and I think this year’s conference went a long way in this regard in a time when so much of the world we inhabit is going through fundamental change.”