“The successful ones are those destinations, hotels, venues, DMCs and PCOs that understand clients’ needs and wants and that are proactive in communication.”

IGOR KOVAČEVIĆ, CEO Serbian Convention Bureau

Successfully combining academic and business careers, Igor Kovacevic has been part of the Serbia journey from “no destination” to the leader in the region and TOP 50 in the world. In the last eight years he has been mainly focusing on working closely with international associations. Igor holds an MA degree and is currently working on his PhD thesis. During his lectures as teaching assistant at the Faculty of Economics in the field of Tourism and Hospitality, he is doing his best in presenting the latest applicable knowledge to his students.

Q: What are the dynamics driving the meetings industry?

The meetings industry goes beyond the pure meetings infrastructure and people are now becoming the main decision making factor. We mustn’t forget that our industry connects people and provides the foundation for networking, so in that respect the biggest trend from the supply side is moving in the direction of soft selling. This means that destinations, along with venues and hotels, are not selling infrastructure and services, but ‘solutions’ and ‘ideas’ for clients. The successful ones are those destinations, hotels, venues, DMCs and PCOs that understand clients’ needs and wants and that are proactive in communication.

At the same time, the demand side is rapidly changing too. Associations are becoming more professional, and more finance-oriented, and in those transformations they are looking for support from an AMC or PCO. This is changing the way destinations are approaching clients. However, this does not mean that content is on the margins of events; it is quite opposite. Content guides delegates and successful events, which leads us to the situation that destinations need to take into consideration both aspects: the need for perfect content and the need for the financial sustainability of events. So, destinations need to work with clients on creating new and interesting content, and at the same time to fulfill budget expectations.

New destinations are always within the scope of a client’s interest and the trend is moving towards new destinations, and that is a reason why destinations (small, large, on mountain tops, in spas) want to be part of the meetings industry. But being a “new destination” is a hard job for bureaus, first of all. Not all destination bureaus can implement the tasks and procedures required to be internationally recognized.

Finally, in order to be internationally recognized and to get client recognition, we need to have educated personnel in all meetings industry providers. Knowledge of the industry and marketing is very hard to get by sitting in an office and looking at more experienced colleagues. The new personnel of CVBs, hotels and venues need to take an active part in education seminars, they need to be part of international networks, and they need to use every possible opportunity to exchange marketing intelligence among colleagues within their destination and with other destinations.

Q: Why is the meetings industry important?

From a destination perspective, international meetings create multiple effects. Firstly, meetings are bringing international know-how to a destination, and this is important, as not all local and regional associations’ members can visit foreign destinations. Secondly, it is a chance to demonstrate local expertise and local products to international colleagues and potential clients. Thirdly, direct, indirect and induced effects are very important, as international meetings are influencing tourism income and increase in GDP.

Q: How can we make the meetings industry more effective?

Cooperation and coopetion are the most important tools in making our industry more effective. Cooperation among private and public stakeholders – hotels, venues and CVBs. The public sector needs to act in favour of destination and on behalf of private sector partners. All the activities need to be coordinated in order to get increased effects. Furthermore, hotels and venues within a destination need to cooperate and to speak with each other in order to share market intelligence, but also in order to create a strong industry image in a client’s eyes.