å“The meetings and incentive industry will have a prosperous future but there are difficult times in-store for at least two years. We will have to adapt the way we do business to tackle the threats posed by terrorism and war.å” These are the claims of former Executive Vice President of MPI and newly appointed Director of Global Industry Relations and Strategic Developments for EIBTM, Ian Dockrill (pictured). In a candid interview Ian Dockrill gives his views on the state of the industry, the threats to its prosperity and how it will benefit from a changing global economy.
Dockrill, President and Chief Executive Officer of consulting practice ANE Global Management based in Plano Texas, is globally recognised as a leader in the meeting, incentive and events industry. He has more than 20 years of global experience in the industry in Europe, North, Central and South America, and Asia. Before founding ANE Global Management, Dockrill was Executive Vice President of Professional Development & Global Member Services for Dallas-based Meeting Professionals International (MPI), the leading global association for the meeting and event industry. Quite simply - when he talks the industry listens.
“The meeting market remains in turmoil with continued uncertainty as to the future. The events of September 11th have forever changed the way our industry conducts its business. Following a 10 year travel boom where industry trends and costs were totally supplier driven we have overnight moved to a buyer driven economy,” commented Dockrill.
“The continued threat of terrorism and the perceived inevitability of war in Iraq has resulted in the reluctance to commit to any long-term travel or group movements. Consequently the meeting industry is struggling to adjust to very short-term leads, reluctance to contractually commit to bookings until the ‘last possible minute.
“Such activity is resulting in reduced response times to requests for availability and pricing. Significant increase in researching and sourcing business electronically along with a desire to find new destinations and facilities that are perceived to be of less risk to buyers than traditional destinations. Industry trade shows such as EIBTM play a significant role in assisting the meeting planner or buyer in understanding this trend and introducing new or alternative destinations to them,” added Dockrill.
“The role of the meeting planner has to change to reflect this new economy. The increased use of technology and outsourcing of key services to reduce costs appears to be the current trend within the industry. Mid and long-term projections suggest that this trend will continue with no real economic recovery being seen for at least another 2 years. Reed Travel Exhibitions has recognized this shift in roles and continues to be innovative in its introduction of tools and concepts (such as the Technology Village and Worldwide Watch) introducing the meeting planner to his changing role.”
“As a result planners/buyers will continue to drive trends, costs and ultimately the success or failure of all related or ancillary businesses. Global planners of the future will need to learn to exercise and control the power they have in this respect and learn to become more Project Management focused as more of the traditional key planning elements continue to be handled by third parties,” Dockrill concluded.
Dockrill believes that the long-term outlook for the destinations most affected by terrorism and the possible Gulf conflict, such as New York, Israel and Bali is positive but in the short term it is the buyer who is choosing to boycott these destinations despite the industry’s best efforts.
“Destinations affected by terrorism and conflict will recapture their share of the market in the long-term. In many ways you only have to look back at the history of the world in as much as many economies and trends evolve, succeed and fail on a cyclical basis only to re-emerge, evolve and succeed again. Examples of this would be the booming economies experienced in Japan and Germany following the Second World War (admittedly these examples received much global help and support) but other more recent examples in our industry are for instance Vietnam’s success as a tourist and incentive destination primarily driven by the U.S. market - something no-one could have thought possible even 5 years ago,” claimed Dockrill.
“Significant work is being carried out by all of the major industry associations to assist areas that have immediate need such as New York and Bali but the success of this at the end of the day is dependent on the commitment of the buyer. While there is a strong resolve to return our industry to normal, business decisions are still being driven by cost, safety and of course the fear factor. EIBTM was one of the first industry organisations to spearhead and fund an Industry Summit involving all of the major industry associations. This summit discussed the immediate effects to the industry of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and generated an association endorsed ‘White Paper’ on the steps to recovery over the following 6 months.
“Eighteen months later, with the continued threat of war in Iraq there is a continued reluctance to commit resources and money to any long-term initiative.
“Other factors play a significant part in influencing the choice of destinations. As an example, surveys of U.S. business travellers continue to indicate that they are not afraid to travel or ride on an airplane, but they continue to desire to be close to home (i.e. able to get home quickly) in the event of a terrorist attack or similar which would prevent air travel. The family unit and its welfare appears to be the top driver in influencing the destination choice for U.S. travellers,” commented Dockrill.
But Ian Dockrill believes that the meetings and incentive industry has a positive future, aided by the growing harmonisation within the global economy. “Increased awareness and understanding of other cultures is resulting in significant changes in the way the world acts, interacts and conducts business,” claims Dockrill.
“The merging of economies such as the European Union and, other significant activities of global interest (such as AIDS, Human Rights issues and so on) is requiring individual national economies to work more in harmony. Such harmonisation will ultimately result in an increase in standardisation of business practices which can only benefit the global meeting industry in the long term. At each of our meetings and incentive events, particularly at EIBTM and AIME, we encourage the exchange of ideas and concepts and try to ensure that the opinions of respected industry leaders are heard, debated or challenged on a regular basis,” he concluded.
Dockrill will bring a valuable new strategic dimension to Reed Travel Exhibition’s portfolio of meetings and incentive events and will be advising on a range of industry and business-related issues.