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The future of the Congress industry was revealed in Prague
What are the current trends and key drivers for success in the meeting industry – those were the main questions to be answered at the third international educational seminar organized by Prague Convention Bureau. This year’s seminar, which took place in Designhotel Elephant’s meeting facilities on 11th March, attracted more than 110 representatives of local regional and foreign convention bureaux, professional congress organizers, local representatives of associations, public authorities, universities and media.

The seminar was opened by Matthias Schultze, Managing Director of German Convention Bureau, who introduced his study “Meetings and Conventions 2030”. “This extensive study defines 5 key megatrends that shape the congress industry. More than 40% of respondents said that technological development is the most important megatrend which will play the key role in further development of congress tourism and event planning,” said Matthias Schultze. “New forms of information and knowledge transfer will strongly influence all phases of event planning.” The study also showed that virtual elements are more frequently becoming integral parts of events, and we can expect that the number of virtual events will continue to grow. Other megatrends that were defined by the study are globalization, mobility, sustainability and demography. Especially the aging population and increasing number of women in this field will influence how the “typical conference participant” will change during the upcoming 20 years.

Jakub Dvořáček,CEO of the Association of Innovative Pharmaceutical Industry (AIPI) then spoke about the current issues of the pharmaceutical and medtech industry compliance codes and their impact on medical meetings. Participation of doctors in international congresses is often the topic of public debate. Since the beginning of this year, there have been significant changes in the conditions under which the pharmaceutical companies can sponsor scientific and educational events for doctors. High attention is paid to both quality of the conference and careful selection of speakers. In order to achieve greater transparency in relations between doctors and pharmaceutical companies, a public database where all necessary information can be found has been created. “We can expect that in the upcoming years the interest in participating in selected medical conferences will decrease due to stricter regulations, as the support from pharmaceutical companies will not be so strong anymore,” said Jakub Dvořáček. “Elsewhere in the world, however, such practice is quite common, and I believe that the overall impact of regulations on the congress industry will not be as noticeable. People will adapt over time.”

Christian Mutschlechner, Director of Vienna Convention Bureau, followed up on the topic of pharmaceutical regulations with his presentation about the current trends in the field of medical meetings. He pointed out that due to the regulations limiting pharmaceutical companies’ sponsorship, the length of medical meetings is shortening. “Incentive activities are disappearing from the programme of medical meetings, and their duration shortens, which leads to considerable savings. The destination itself does not play such important role as before. More attention is paid to quality content of congresses and contribution of the particular event to the development of the sector.”

The second part of the seminar focused on case studies on the importance of strategic partnership. Martin Sirk, CEO of ICCA, was the first to speak about the importance of strategic partnership and cooperation. “It is essential that hotels, conference facilities and other conference service providers closely cooperate with local convention bureaux and act together as one “city team”. It is also necessary to establish broader cooperation – on the national as well as international level,” said Martin Sirk. “In addition to collaboration and mutual support of regions within the country, alliances among different destinations are being formed as well. As an example we can mention Barcelona and Vienna who present themselves together in distant markets, while in the European region they act as two independent players. Similarly, Washington D.C. and Brussels, where many international associations are based, help each other, for example when organizing their business activities.” Martin Sirk also mentioned another current trend - associations are joining in order to find a sponsor for all of their events. Nowadays, it is becoming a necessity to look for suitable partners for particular activities and diversify those partnerships according to the purpose of these activities.

Juan José García, Director of Marketing & Sales of Barceló Congresos, delivered a presentation focused on creating strategic partnerships. He stressed the importance of destination branding, especially creating a great “story” which will sell the destination. Today, it is not necessary to spend much money to promote the destination; there are much more efficient ways how to increase the visibility of the destination at almost no costs. As an example he mentioned references from delegates and event organizers. He also confirmed another current trend – a necessity to provide free Wi-Fi to conference delegates.

Bruce Redor from Gaining Edge, who also moderated the entire seminar, at the end introduced models of partnerships that work in different European convention bureaux, including their models of financing.

The event was held under the auspices of the Deputy Mayor of Prague Mr. Václav Novotný. The main partners of the seminar were the City of Prague, CzechTourism/ Czech Convention Bureau, Prague Airport, Prague City Tourism and Designhotel Elephant, Mikenopa as the technological partner and E15, C.O.T. media publishing house and Event & Promotion magazine as media partners.