Meetings and events are discrete affairs. They take weeks, months and sometimes years to plan. They happen. And then, they're over.
Or are they?
Far from it, according to participants in this year's IMEX Policy Forum, a summary of which was published last week by the event's organizer, the IMEX Group.
Formerly known as the IMEX Politicians Forum, the IMEX Policy Forum is an annual event that brings together meeting professionals and policymakers from around the world in order to discuss issues that mutually impact meeting professionals and the destinations in which they conduct their business. The event this year hosted more than 30 politicians and policymakers, who convened with 80 industry leaders in order to have conversations around the theme "The Legacy of Positive Policy Making."
Although participants had varied and diverse answers to the many questions that were raised during the Forum, there was consensus on at least one point: Meetings and events continue to impact destinations long after they are over.
Deciding what that impact, or legacy, should be -- and how to engineer it successfully -- was the main objective of the Forum, which commenced with an opening session during which participants discussed the importance of creating a "national meeting strategy" in their home countries.
"Delegates recognized the need for an integrated approach to optimize synergies and avoid conflict with policy and regulation together with the overarching importance of consultation with local government," reported the IMEX Group, which hosted the Forum in May at this year's IMEX in Frankfurt trade show. "They also commented on the need to recognize and acknowledge the social importance of medical meetings and events and, frequently, their knowledge transfer."
Cities played a leading role in this year's Forum, which included a workshop on "The Evolution of Cities in the Meetings Industry." During it, six global cities -- Sydney, Singapore, Dubai, Tel Aviv, Cape Town and Barcelona -- presented case studies showcasing their success as major meetings destinations.
Another highlight was a presentation by World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) President and CEO Gloria Guevara Manzo, who discussed what she considers the top three challenges facing the global meetings industry: safety and security, crisis preparation and sustainability.
Finally, the Forum concluded with the "Open Forum," wherein a panel of industry leaders -- Rod Cameron of the Joint Meetings Industry Council (JMIC), Nina Freysen-Pretorius of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), Don Welsh of Destinations International (DI), Nan Marchand Beauvois of the U.S. Travel Association (USTA), Dieter Hardt-Stremayr of European Cities Marketing (ECM) and noted urbanist Greg Clark -- responded to a set of questions posed by attending government representatives, including: What is the biggest challenge for the meetings and events industry? How can an event leave a positive legacy? How can the industry balance concerns around globalization with local concerns? And, how can the industry achieve sustainability and support city resilience?
"The question of the biggest challenges to the growth of the industry generated a broad range of opinions, particularly the need to be recognized as an independent sector beyond tourism and with a clearer story more aligned to economic development, knowledge and innovation," the IMEX Group reported. "The debate on legacy revealed the vast range of potential different positive legacies that an event can leave behind while the importance of genuine engagement with local cultures was one of many points raised in the discussion about balancing globalization with local concerns. This was reflected further in the consideration of city resilience when the debate recognized the need for the industry to be integrated better with local communities."
Concluded IMEX Group CEO Carina Bauer, "The IMEX Policy Forum continues to drive the industry forward, building its reputation in government as a powerful catalyst for economic development."