A networking breakfast facilitated by the Hon. Nick de Bois, Member of Parliament and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for UK Events, signalled the official start of the IMEX Politicians Forum in Frankfurt this week.
Now in its 11th year, the Forum is organised annually by IMEX with the aim of providing an opportunity for leaders of the global meetings, incentive travel and events industry to meet with government ministers, policy-makers and other political representative.
Yesterday’s advocacy event was attended by the Honorable Secretary Claudia Ruiz-Massieu,
Minister of Tourism for Mexico; the Honorable Marthinus van Schalkwyk, Minister of Tourism, South Africa and His Excellency, Mr Hisham Zaazou, Minister of Tourism for Egypt. They attended among a total of 36 politicians from 28 countries. Representing the city of Frankfurt during the Forum was Uwe Becker, Deputy Mayor and City Treasurer.
Before transferring to the Villa Kennedy for the afternoon’s Forum, the politicians and other guests were given a guided tour of the IMEX trade show. Here they met with their destination representatives on their stands while also taking in the sheer size and diversity of the international meetings market.
Once at the Villa Kennedy, the group was welcomed by IMEX Chairman, Ray Bloom, followed by a personal address by Sir Rocco Forte MA, FCA and Chairman of Rocco Forte Hotels. Afterwards the group heard opening remarks from the supporting Associations: Philippe Fournier, President of the Joint Meetings Industry Council (JMIC); Dieter Hardt-Stremayr, President of European Cities Marketing (ECM) and Geoff Don, Vice President of the International Association of Congress Centres (AIPC).
Thereafter, moderator Michael Hirst, OBE and Chairman of the Business Events Partnership UK introduced this year’s discussion topic: “Overcoming critical barriers to industry growth – An International Perspective,” which was co-presented by Martin Sirk, CEO of the International Congress & Convention Association (ICCA) and Rod Cameron, Executive Director of JMIC.
Lionel Yeo, CEO of the Singapore Tourism Board then shared a case study on Singapore’s success in the global meetings and events market. Since being appointed in June 2012 Yeo has made it his mission to increase business travel, meetings and events in Singapore. He has urged local businesses to adopt new business models to allow for this expansion and focused resources on finding innovative new ways to leverage Singapore’s existing infrastructure for added growth.
The day’s programme concluded with all of the politicians being invited to sign a new ‘Declaration of Support’. Devised with the help of the Joint Meetings Industry Council (JMIC) in consultation with other industry bodies, the declaration is intended to act as a public roll-call of politicians who understand the full economic importance of the meetings and events industry to their communities. It also serves to highlight the industry’s frequently undervalued role in building and sustaining local knowledge economies, creating full and part-time employment, encouraging regeneration and stimulating infrastructure investment.
Even before the Forum had got underway, five politicians had put their name to the declaration. They were: the Honorable Ernesto Orillac, Vice Minister of Tourism for Panama (the first to sign); His Excellency Mr Hisham Zaazou, Egyptian Minister of Tourism; Dalfanso Franco, Councillor for the City of Milan, Italy; Marjolein de Jong, Deputy Mayor of The Hague, Netherlands and Dr Rolf-Barnim Foth, Ministry of Economy, Transportation & Innovation, Hamburg, Germany.
Destinations all over the world will now be encouraged to use the declaration as a way to open up dialogue with their local politicians and help solicit their public support for the meetings and events industry locally. IMEX and its partners are aiming to secure 100 signatories for the declaration by the end of 2013. The document is also being used by JMIC as part its new ‘Speak Up’ advocacy campaign.
First-time delegate the Honourable Cleophas Jens Mutjavikua from the Ministry of Regional Local Government of Namibia said of the day: “This was extremely well organised and I’m going to be taking a lot of ideas back to Namibia. Like a lot of leisure destinations we have a strong tourism base in our country but today has taught me we need to be a lot more strategic about our position in the meetings and events market. We need to plan for the future and this Forum is definitely going to serve as a catalyst for that future strategic development.”
Wendy Simon, City Councillor for the City of Liverpool, described her reaction: “Today has been really good and I’ve come away both with new ideas plus a sense that we’re actually doing quite well compared to some other destinations. It’s been fascinating to put our local efforts into this global context and I now see where we have opportunities for more progress; that is in connecting more interests together so that we are united in our messages and our actions. The emphasis on working collectively to achieve recognition has inspired me to go home and really work to break down remaining barriers. And we’ll definitely be highlighting our part in the Declaration of Support. I think it’s important that Liverpool knows it had a voice here today.”
Talking about the success of this year’s Politician’s Forum, IMEX Group Chairman, Ray Bloom, said: “The Politicians Forum has become an extremely important part of IMEX in Frankfurt and one that has grown in stature and scope every year. Thanks to concerted communications and campaigning efforts by many industry associations, together with the commissioning of a growing number of national economic impact studies, there is now a far better understanding of the true value of the meetings industry among policy-makers. The Politicians Forum acts as an opportunity for all of us to stop and take stock of progress but also to ensure we keep working together to push for more.”