The pioneering association meetings industry education and advocacy work of ICCA’s Middle East Office was honoured in the latest round of nominations for PCMA’s annual Visionary Awards, with ICCA Regional Director Middle East Senthil Gopinath named as one of three finalists in the running for Business Event Strategist of the Year.

Gopinath, who has spent his glittering two-decade career in business events advocating for the strategic development of the global meetings industry, has set a precedent as the only non-US nominee included among the 2019 honourees and finalists.

Industry education, networking and advocacy in the Middle East

In his latest role as the International Congress and Convention Association’s Middle East representative, Gopinath’s employment of a unique strategic approach to the growth of meetings business, which combines creative meetings methodology and the engagement of policy makers, has seen ICCA activities in the region grow significantly since he took the helm of the association’s regional office in April 2016.

Working in collaboration with local convention bureaux and tourism boards, ICCA’s Middle East Office has successfully increased engagement with the local meetings industry by organising a large number of educational events and networking opportunities.

Named “Meetings Industry Development Forums” and introduced by Gopinath around the theme of “Education…Engage…Enhance Business”, each event uses ICCA’s wealth of knowledge and experience to enable both local associations and meetings industry professionals to gain an understanding of the general requirements and strategies of international associations. In addition, the format focuses on increasing engagement, integration and community development among ICCA members and local industry stakeholders for the purpose of knowledge sharing, a key foundation of ICCA’s methodology.

Knowledge growth and more engagement, with tangible results

The introduction of this format has proved incredibly successful in developing professional association meetings knowledge, increasing regional engagement in the ICCA community and growing the meetings industry in the Middle East region in general. Twelve Forums have taken place in 7 countries since 2018, with the most recent edition being held in Muscat, Oman in December 2018; similar events are planned for 2019.

In combination with the record-breaking 57th ICCA Congress, which was held in 2018 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and attracted over 1,150 senior meetings industry professionals from over 75 countries, this success is a clear sign that ICCA engagement and knowledge development in the Middle East have gone from strength to strength.

It also serves as a major testament to Gopinath’s business events acumen honed over two decades holding strategic leadership positions in major meetings industry organisations, another reason for his Visionary Awards nomination.

“My sincere thanks to ICCA for creating such a great platform for knowledge sharing.”

“It’s a great honour to be selected for the prestigious Visionary Awards. I would like to take this opportunity to thank PCMA for recognising my contribution of over two decades to the global meetings industry; it’s a pleasure to be included alongside this elite group of international meetings industry professionals,” said Gopinath of his nomination.

“The selection is also very significant, as I am the only professional selected outside the US. Competing with meeting professionals from the rest of the world and achieving such an accolade is truly inspiring and a lifetime accomplishment. My meetings industry contribution of over 20 years, and particularly the last two years of my innovative and progressive methodology used to develop ICCA in the Middle East region, surely made the difference. It’s also a significant achievement for ICCA. My sincere thanks to ICCA for creating such a great platform for knowledge sharing and community engagement.”

Significant increase in Middle Eastern ICCA membership

Under Gopinath’s leadership, ICCA membership in the Middle East reached the 50-member milestone, increasing by 70% in the first 18 months of his tenure. Six ICCA members from Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Dubai, Jordan, Oman and Qatar have also signed on as ICCA Association Relations Partners, an additional sign of the region’s growth and dedication to their investment in attracting international association meetings.

According to ICCA’s recently-published 55-year industry report, the Middle East continues to be the fastest growing region for international association meetings, with the number of meetings held more than doubling in the last decade.

The winners of the 2019 PCMA Visionary Awards are set to be announced during the awards ceremony on Tuesday 7 May at the Marriott Marquis in Washington D.C., U.S.A.

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