“How Do I Attract More Meetings and Events to My Destination?” was the engaging theme that drew more than 120 participants to the 13th IMEX Politicians Forum on May 19. Participants included ministers, senior government representatives, policy makers and meetings industry leaders representing 34 destinations.
Among the many distinguished delegates who gathered at the Villa Kennedy Hotel in Frankfurt were politicians from Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Namibia, Netherlands, Poland, Republic of Indonesia, Republic of Serbia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovak Republic and South Africa.
A unique annual event in the meetings industry calendar, 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 also 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.
In particular, through expert contributions and by exchanging knowledge and best practice on strategies, the politicians and industry leaders addressed what is needed to develop a destination brand for meetings and ensure they are in the best position to identify, bid for and win business events that align with their government priorities.
The full day program began with a VIP Guided Tour of the exhibition prior to attending the Opening Ceremony where the politicians heard one of the world’s foremost business leaders, Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP, the world’s largest business software company, deliver the keynote speech. Bill is a passionate advocate of the value and effectiveness of meetings as a means to drive business growth and profit. The politicians then had a further chance to visit the IMEX exhibition and their national pavilions.
The afternoon sessions at the Villa Kennedy Hotel started with two Global Exchange of Best Practice sessions focused on national and local level strategies before the Politicians Forum where all the politicians and industry leaders came together for a debate on how to build a brand identity, breaking down the barriers to growth and maximizing the economic and social dividends that derive from events.
One of the many leading politicians who took part in the Forum was the Hon. Deputy Minister Tokozile Xasa, National Department of Tourism, South Africa.
Reflecting on the Forum, she said:
“The opening ceremony was truly inspirational and Bill McDermott was very impressive.
“This has been very enriching for us and the discussions have been extremely interesting. We are learning how to deal with the challenges from those with more experience in this industry.
“I’ve appreciated how critical is the role of government in helping businesses to operate in this market. It has been good to gain insights from the private sector and understand how collaboration between government and business is essential.
“Overall, this has been a very good learning experience.”
Hon. Ragnheidur Elin Arnadottir, Minister of Industry and Commerce for Iceland commented:
“Today has been very informative. There has been a strong sense of cohesion through the whole forum.
“The main point that I have taken from today is that, to make the most of meetings business opportunities, it is very important to have good co-operation between several ministries within government and I’m pleased to find that we are on the right track.
“I’ve also realized the real extent of the opportunities to be developed in the area of innovation and tech-transfer, and how they can benefit the local economy. With expertise in, for instance, geo–thermal technology and the Arctic, these are two areas in which we could build more conference and meetings business.
“I’ve been impressed by the meetings industry, how well organized and structured it is, and the IMEX trade show is remarkable. I’ve been to many trade shows over the years, particularly in America, and this is one of the most impressive I’ve seen.”
Ray Bloom, chairman of the IMEX Group commented:
“It is a powerful compliment to the high standing of the IMEX Politicians Forum that so many prominent senior politicians have come from all over the world to take part.
“It also highlights the evolving role of the meetings industry in economies, with more governments bringing the development of their meetings industries under the umbrella of Economic Development. Most importantly, it reveals the vast potential for the benefits to be greater still if government and industry co-operate fully, co-ordinate efforts and invest in further development.
“The level of debate, engagement and the superb feedback from today have been very impressive and indicate that our efforts to raise awareness at the highest level of the benefits of the meetings industry are achieving a positive impact.”