While daily headlines can make it seem as if the world is full of dangers and security threats, the opportunities and allure of global destinations are only growing when it comes to planning business events. That was among the messages of the second half of Successful Meetings University (SMU) International, a gathering of about 250 meeting planners and representatives of international properties, destinations, and service providers, hosted by Northstar Meetings Group (which includes Successful Meetings). Taking place Feb. 25-27 at 1 Hotel Brooklyn, the event brought buyers and suppliers together for one-on-one meetings, as well as networking events and internationally inspired meals.
"We live not only in a world of globalized economic activity, but globalized information -- so we know what's going on around the world as it happens," said John Sitilides, principal at Trilogy Advisors LLC as well as a Washington, D.C. government affairs specialist and consultant to the U.S. State Department, who provided the keynote address on the final morning of the event. "We are experiencing information overload, where every single thing become extraordinarily magnified -- it builds anxiety."
Sitilides, represented by SMU International sponsor Goodman Speakers Bureau, made this point during a talk in which he outlined issues facing global industry and security, going through the world region by region and highlighting areas of instability, unpredictability, and opportunity. While he did not shy from discussing sensitive security concerns, he emphasized that fears of political disruption or terrorism at international destinations can be exaggerated by media coverage, and the best thing a planner can do for themselves and their clients is get the facts.
"Do a dispassionate, objective analysis of what's going on in the world," he urged. "Yours is a thriving industry and there are tremendous opportunities for this to continue to grow -- sharing prosperity for family, friends, men, women, and children."
Attendees didn't have to look far to appreciate the opportunities available for groups looking to create an international itinerary. The long list of suppliers in attendance represented properties and destinations from Medellin to Manchester, Singapore to South Africa. In addition to planners' one-on-one meetings with these destinations and properties, lunchtime sponsor messages offered attendees a deep dive into a pair of international meetings hot spots.
Representatives from the lunchtime sponsor for the first day, Dubai Business Events, outlined the vast growth the destination had seen and the ongoing growth of its meetings offerings -- with attractions ranging from the tallest hotel in the world (The Gevora Hotel, just beating out previous record holder JW Marriott Marquis Dubai) to the historic Old Dubai. Stephanie Cheung, the organization's North America account executive, pointed out that the destination is within a four-hour flight from one-third of the world's population, as well as its status as one of the safest places in the world.
The sponsor of the second day's lunch, Mexico Tourism Board, outlined the attractions of its destination as well, from the outdoor offerings of Puerto Vallarta to the beaches of Los Cabos -- and the significant hotel and venue developments happening throughout the country.
The evening reception on the final night, held at the nearby Marriott New York Brooklyn Bridge (offering more than 47,000 square feet of event space spread across 26 event rooms), kept the focus closer to home. Between bites, guests could take photos in front of a wall of bespoke graffiti and sip on Brooklyn-based beverages at a number of stations representing local businesses including Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn Winery, and Kings County Distillery.