There are positive signs that the meetings industry is now more aware of its impact and legacy. An evolved industry – one that thinks beyond itself – is better prepared to play a critical supporting role in dealing with today's global challenges.
This year has been the year of restarting and reconnecting for the meetings industry. It’s hard to believe that just 12 months ago, shaken by the Omicron Covid variant, international in-person meetings were rare.
Today, international meetings are common again. Not only is the meetings industry confident that it will continue to thrive, but it is also starting to look beyond its challenges at the more significant impact it can have on other sectors and the world.
Looking back at some of the meetings industry’s key initiatives and gatherings this year, it seems that overcoming its own setbacks has allowed the industry rise above its own concerns.
With global challenges such as climate change, armed conflicts, and economic uncertainty remaining top of mind, it is reassuring to see the apparent evolution of the meetings industry. After all, meetings will be part of solving global challenges. An evolved industry that thinks beyond itself is better prepared to play a critical supporting role.
ICCA Congress Showcases Evolution
The themes of the ICCA Congress 2022 were: sustainability; equity, diversity and inclusion; and legacy. Combined these form one of the four strategic pillars for associations revealed in the ICCA Global Association Meetings Protocol published by ICCA partners MMGY NextFactor in November 2021.
None of these themes are new, but the manner in which they permeated the entire congress was different. They were not simply tacks alongside logistics or finance tracks, they were fully integrated and all sessions fit into them. This is a hopeful signal of further assimilation into the meetings industry.
One important legacy left by the congress was showing the international meetings industry that Poland is open for business. The neighboring conflict in Ukraine is showing no signs of abating and it has made attracting international association meetings to Poland incredibly challenging. Despite a reduced congress attendance by the local Polish industry, the presence of more than 900 meetings-industry professionals made a difference with their presence and by actively contributing to the many charitable activities organized for them.
Partnerships Lead Complementing Initiatives
Collaborating with ICCA were some of the meetings industry leading figures in these key areas. The congress itself has become a home for several initiatives including the Incredible Impacts Programme, a joint initiative and grant program created by ICCA and BestCities Global Alliance that highlights great examples of associations building through events.
The latest results of the Global Destination Sustainability Index were announced on stage by GDS CEO Guy Bigwood. Gothenburg once again led the list but the bigger news was the significant improvement is destinations sustainability across the board, the largest since the creation of the index. While the index compares mainly European cities, a good number of Australian and Canadian cities are also now part of the index. This year Bangkok was recognized as the most improved destination while Belfast’s innovation around food poverty in the city also received an award.
The recipient of the 2022 ICCA Best Marketing Award was the International Convention Centre Wales (ICC Wales) for its work in educating the global events sector on the incoming Protect Duty (Martyn’s Law). The selection shines a light on an important legacy that ensures there are processes and protocols in place to identify and mitigate the risk of a terrorist attack.
The Copenhagen Lecture, the closing keynote of the ICCA Congress for almost 20 years, also followed this theme. It featured two inspiring young Danes pushing for sustainable transformation, one in politics and the other by disrupting the fishing industry.
Also announced during the ICCA Congress was an update to Conferli, a platform that helps association planners find appropriate destinations. The platform now allows for filtering destinations based on Sustainable Development Goals. This makes it easier for association planners to find destinations that align with their organization’s goals, and maximize the opportunity of creating a positive legacy.
IMEX Continues to Focus on Sustainability
Yesterday IMEX announced human nature as its talking point for 2023, following nature as the talking point for 2021 and 2022. Rather than a theme for the company’s shows, IMEX says it uses the talking point as a framework for educational programming and setting a direction for its design team.
This improved sense of direction came through in some of the details at IMEX America including the simplified education session topics that all neatly fit into four categories: respect for people and planet, future self, event planner toolkit, and innovation and creativity.
IMEX will soon be releasing its sustainability report for the recent Vegas show, a report that sets the standard for all the meetings industry. While the progress is always encouraging to see, it’s also a report that acknowledges the uphill battle the industry faces when it comes to being truly sustainable.
Milestone Meetings on Climate Change
In November the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) gathered politicians to agree on policies and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Leading up to this event Positive Impact, a not for profit company focused on event sustainability, led a campaign encouraging event professionals to become engagement enablers and join the UN-backed Race to Zero campaign focused on the shift to a decarbonized economy.
Net Zero Carbon Events, a meetings initiative to address climate launched its roadmap for the events industry, launched its roadmap at COP27. The initiative revealed that 225 organizations have committed to publishing their organization’s pathway to achieve net zero by 2050, before the end of 2023.
There are significant signs that the industry has matured and evolved in 2022. However, the real test lies ahead, with economic uncertainty beginning to impact corporations. Nevertheless, there is hope that the lessons learned forcefully through the Covid pandemic will have a lasting impact on the meetings industry, making it more resilient and more aware of its impact and legacy. Should this impact of the Covid pandemic actually lead to positive long-term change, it will undoubtedly be its actual silver lining.
Photo credit: Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash