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Conference report: EIBTM, Barcelona

Margie Logarta – managing editor of one of BBT’s sister titles, creative meetings magazine Mix – reports from the EIBTM meetings and events exhibition in Barcelona

MEETINGS AND EVENTS professionals remain optimistic about the state of networking in 2012, despite the global economic slowdown. The 2011 Industry Trends & Market Share Report, presented recently at EIBTM by the show’s industry analyst Rob Davidson, indicates the demand for corporate meetings is likely to approach peak 2008-levels by end of this year.

It also concluded that rates for meeting venues will rise faster in 2012 than they did in 2011. Graeme Barnett, EIBTM exhibition director, supported the encouraging picture, pointing to the show’s record number of pre-scheduled appointments, some 65,950, which indicated a 16 per cent increase year-on-year.

Forty two new destinations, destination management companies and venues bumped up the exhibitor roster.

“Globally, this industry is responsible for 1.7 million jobs and US$106 billion of GDP,” said Barnett. “Our role is to provide the platform and environment for the sector to meet and conduct business. Ultimately, we achieved that and more, and delivered value and profitable results for our customers.”

The buoyant mood at EIBTM, Davidson explained, could be linked to the fact that the players were demonstrating they had learned through the years “to operate effectively within volatile markets, using innovative solutions and cooperating with each other in new and imaginative ways”.

He stressed increasing financial uncertainty made it imperative for the industry to work “to be part of the solution, rather than a cost to businesses”.

Also highlighted was the price differential between popular events hubs (such as Paris, Vienna and London) and second- and third-tier cities, a factor likely to widen in coming months. Once this transpires, this will mean more opportunities for emerging metropolises to pitch and host conferences, exhibitions and incentive travel activities.

With members of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) circle continuing to power global growth and form new trade ties, a spike in the volume of meetings within the group is logical, said Davidson, who cited the booming interchange between Brazil and China as a prime example. He said: “It’s only logical, then, that corporate events and incentive travel trips take place in the countries where we do business.”

Intensifying its trademark focus on research, EIBTM organiser Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE) launched a worldwide research programme, using the strength of a database that spans Europe, Asia-Pacific, China, Australia and the US, to establish twice-yearly, quality figures and information on volume and value trends, and major issues affecting the industry.

Craig Moyes, group exhibitions director for RTE’s global meetings industry portfolio, revealed the company’s plans to use email, social media websites and its individual event portals (including EIBTM for Europe, AIME for Australia, CIBTM for China, and GIBTM for the Middle East) to gather the findings. The initiative is expected to furnish valuable intelligence on countries and regions such as China and the Middle East, which are rapidly evolving into major players in the meetings market as inbound and outbound generators. The findings will also help industry members learn where to direct their marketing activities and budgets.

EIBTM’s Technology Village benefited from the debut of the Future Events Experience, a 320sq m area dubbed ‘the sandbox’, which invited exhibitors to demonstrate upcoming products and services, and visitors to ‘play’ them, as well as providing the Chance2Speak corner for professionals to share insights about the sector’s next stage. Other features included interactive e-posters controllable by smartphones and tablets, and a multi-camera broadcast of live and recorded sessions on EIBTM’s Facebook page and website. This year’s EIBTM Technology Watch Award, which aims to spot significant innovations in the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) industry, went to US based analytics provider ITN International for its Citywide Attendee Credential, a delegate badge that doubles as a free pass to public transport and tourist attractions in a host city.

The dynamics between Generation Y and Z, and Generation X – who were identified as the current decision makers – were explained by Shuli Golovinski, CEO of Newtonstrand, sponsor of the Future Events Experience. He said: “There is a need to understand that sweeping, fundamental, cultural change is here to stay. GenX managers would benefit by understanding and embracing the fact that this change blends the traditional aspects of the events industry with the new and emerging ones, and will advance the industry as a whole.

"It doesn’t mean throwing everything away and starting with a blank slate, but rather adding the social elements that are missing from today’s traditional events.”