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Article from BTNews 5 DECEMBER 2011

ON TOUR: Collaboration, Co-operation and Competition

Our regular contributor Jane Stanbury has been off on her travels again, this time to Barcelona and the biggest incentive meetings gathering of them all, EIBTM.

Three Cs drove the ethos at this year’s EIBTM.  Collaboration, co-operation and competition.  The 23rd annual European incentive meetings and conference exhibition was held in Barcelona last week.

This year’s show saw over 9,250 visitors and buyers attending, up 10% on last year.  What gloom you might say. Or are their signs of optimism around.

Key to the success of the show is the Hosted Buyer programme which sees vetted and qualified buyers attend as guests of the show.  3,904 Hosted Buyers spent their time attending over 64,000 pre-scheduled meetings.  They are responsible for billions of dollars’ worth of business.  47% of the invitees were said to have budgets of more than US $1m. 

Getting them there is an essential part of the event and nothing is left to chance.  I was lucky enough to join one of the UK charter flights from Gatwick, and stepped out with trepidation into the early morning light of Wednesday 30th, the day of predicted chaos owing to the UK’s national strike.

It’s interesting to note that the “charter” was once deemed to be the poor man’s way of travelling, remember the mouldy sandwiches, uncomfortable seats and endless delays.  Not so these days.  Our charter arranged by Air Charter Travel which specializes in large group charter and celebrates 20 years of operations this year, delivered a truly memorable experience, and reminded me how travelling should be. 

Dedicated check-in desks at Gatwick made the early morning start bearable as no queues and smiling check-in staff quickly handled the 128 passengers on the flight.  Once on board the branded flight bucks fizz, followed by a delicious hot breakfast – which kept me going to 2pm – was served along with an EIBTM catalogue so buyers could plan their schedules.  It wasn’t just the passengers who enjoyed the service, the Thomas Cook crew was happy to be of service commenting that for them it was just like “the old days” when full service was provided to the clients. 

Tim Procter, MD of Air Charter Travel said “the flight is essential for EIBTM, these are A List buyers, incredibly influential in the business and it’s great to have the opportunity to fly them to this essential industry conference.  This is the 17th year we’ve worked with Reed (Reed Exhibitions Ltd) to get buyers to the show and we understand just how important it is for the exhibition.”

In a challenging economic environment hosted buyers were treated to a number of innovative approaches to business with a variety of destinations collaborating to make their regions more attractive. 

On the smaller scale the regions of Málaga, Gijón and the Costa Del Sol have created an alliance to co-operate to improve their profiles and understanding of their offerings over the next four years.  At a national level Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are carrying out a similar exercise and Slovenia is working with a collection of other Southern European countries to do the same.  A Northern Lights Cocktail event celebrated a similar collaboration between Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.  Working together these alliances can bring more knowledge, experience and maximize synergies to compete with other destinations. From the buyers perspective these collaborations provide single sources of information so saving time and providing depth of knowledge about a number of options.  This is an attractive proposition in a world where buyers are time poor and vying for the next piece of business. 

New destinations on show to the buyers included The Kingdom of Bahrain which was making a debut promoting itself as a conference destination.  Taj hotels returned for the first time in five years and were pleased to meet their objectives for the show.  The Balearic Islands also had a first time presence with a number of properties exhibiting including the Hilton, Blau Porto Petro and the soon to open Jumeirah Pto Soller. The new waterside Palau de Congressos in Palma also had a presence as it is set to open in Spring 2012 will have capacity for 2,400 people placing it firmly on the conference map.

Initiatives introduced included The Future Events experience which explored how technology and social media will increasingly affect the future of events.  It will undoubtedly be a core part of yet to come MICE business and has the capacity to extend any event beyond the four walls of the room.  EIBTMTV offered broadcasting well beyond the sunny Barcelona environs.

Attendees are likely to be directing presentations through digital questioning, and providing interactive feedback to the presenter.  In fact delegates will most likely be able to book their own speaking slots, a business version of speakers’ corner for those that have something to share.  The famous dot.com adage of content is king will likely be transferred to the MICE arena where all taking part can contribute knowledge to create a wealth of intelligence, rather than just single source deliveries.  Conference planners, incentive meeting arrangers and the venues should heed well the desires and challenges presented by this upcoming generation.

The conference hall atmosphere was buoyant but the bottom line is where the MICE business future market is headed.  Rob Davidson the EIBTM industry analyst presented a number of key developments for the industry.  Trends show that buyers will consider second and third tier cities and destinations to maximize budget, a pattern that is likely to continue until some kind of economic stability is reached.  Good news for the Central and Eastern European block which has seen substantial increase in MICE business through-out the economic downturn. 

EIBTM saw an increase of visitors from Russia, Latin America, particularly Brazil this year, and Davidson suggests that these economies will be the engine of the global recovery and Brazil, predicted to take over the UK as the world’s sixth largest economy in 2012, is the one to watch.

Jane Stanbury at EIBTM www.emeraldmedia.co.uk

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