Last year’s selection of influencers by Kongres Magazine marked the eighth year of the distinguished project. The selected influencers are trailblazers in their respective fields and help co-create the regional meetings industry. Kongres Magazine’s selection is, in a way, an overview of who is who in the industry.
Q1: Live meetings are coming back. What is your take on the current situation, and what is your prediction for this year?
The current situation is very positive in terms of the associations’ interest in announcements of live business meetings and particularly in terms of the corporations’ interest to maintain travel for incentives after almost two years of cancellations or delays of meetings. During this time, they were held under special circumstances in-person or online. On the other hand, we are conducting business under completely different circumstances compared to the pre-pandemic period. This year, we have frequently experienced situations of higher demand in relation to supply and the last minute requests, so the bookings for the second part of the year are excellent.
Q2: How do you see the future of digital, hybrid and metaverse events?
As a convention bureau, we are mostly focused on live events because they provide the best way to show and bring a destination closer to the target audiences.
Over the last two years, everybody in the meetings & incentive industry has had an opportunity to attend digital and hybrid events, and we are aware of their advantages and limitations. When it comes to smaller or shorter business meetings, the opposition is lower than it has been at the beginning of their implementation because we have learned how to attend and organise online events. When it comes to the events with the aim of reaching more attendees and meeting the requirements of those who prefer live events and of those who attend digitally due to certain limitations and circumstances, hybrid events will be organised, but I expect that most of the attendees will attend the events live.
Q3: We are living in uncertain times; in the past two years, we have learned how to cope with a crisis caused by the spread of the coronavirus, and we have found ourselves amid a war recently. How do you face such crisis situations?
With the fast-growing technologies and fast changes in trends due to dramatic changes in circumstances, things like being ready for the changes and adopting the new skills are essential, but also being connected with the sector participants to remain at the source of various approaches and to learn the examples of good practice. The inflation and the general issues of economic and political uncertainty make it difficult to make predictions for the next year; yet, as with any uncertainty, it is essential to have and provide high-quality and timely information.
Q4: What does the future bring for the meetings industry in the next decade? Which challenges should we address immediately?
In comparison to the digital or hybrid meetings that have been the most common alternative to live meetings over the last two years, future in-person meetings will tend to feature as many creative concepts as possible and provide high-quality content and insights into innovations and developments in the attendees. It is equally important to provide the elements related to wellbeing, the answers to coping with the challenges of the times to the attendees, but also to enable the attendees to be connected with the whole world. In other words, the meetings need to have a purpose.
The purpose of meetings will dictate whether meetings will be live or virtual, and the organisations will take a more strategic approach to how and why they need to gather their teams.
In any event, we may expect even more emphasis on technology. For that reason, the venues need to invest in equipment and ensure the required meeting technology for seamless connecting of the companies that require a hybrid meeting model. Likewise, the arrangement of halls needs to contribute to the creation of the desired general impression of the ambient of the meeting, but in all segments of the meeting planning, the principles of sustainability and carbon neutrality need to be observed as those criteria will be an extremely important decision factor to meeting organisers.
At the moment, the most pressing issues in travel are cancellations of flights, a drop in quality of certain services due to the lack of appropriate workforce on the one hand, and inflation and rising prices on the other hand. As a convention bureau, we need to direct the clients to collaborate with the most experienced and verified agencies that know how to handle travel emergencies. Likewise, the buyers need to be directed to professional and high-quality hotels, i.e. the venues that have kept value for money and that can ensure the high quality of the desired service for the client.
Q5: How do you keep up with the changes transforming the business world, particularly in event organising? What is your advice for our readers?
The changes in technology and communications require adapting from all service providers in the domain of events related to business tourism events in all their shapes and forms. We have experienced a big transformation during the COVID pandemic, when the entire tourism industry, in the atmosphere of significantly reduced demand, developed and established a whole slew of new business models, with some of them being only transition solutions, while some of them brought a permanently added value and remain applied even after COVID (that is hopefully mostly behind us). On one hand, changes are the result of objective technological and social circumstances, and, on the other hand, they are dictated by the evolution of supply and demand. Continuous education, networking and following and adopting the good practice examples are imperative for further successful business operations in the meeting industry.
Q6: Will corporate social responsibility continue to be discussed as a priority at events instead of topical issues, such as climate change or organising events sustainably?
Sustainability is today de facto a “horizontal” topic present in considerations of the future of all forms of tourism. It is crystal clear that an extreme growth of volume of the global tourism traffic that was recorded on the global scale right until the COVID pandemic prioritises the global environmental, social and economical sustainability of tourism, despite the numerous positive aspects and social performance, also brings many perils on the global level. It is, therefore, necessary to prioritise consideration of the realistic destination capacities, implementation of environmentally sustainable practices in building of capacities and development of different additional contents, i.e. organising the entire line of tourist experiences. The meetings industry is no exception in that respect, and its future needs to be viewed from the aspect of the implementation of sustainable practices in all organisation segments.
Q7: Which trend inspires you the most, and where do you see immense potential for event organisers?
The use of advanced technology to enhance meeting events is an area with many possibilities, particularly from the aspect of the fast development of technology.
Likewise, social responsibility, including sustainability, is also extremely important. We, the meeting industry stakeholders, all need to incorporate the unique aspects of a destination, the richness of the local tradition, cultural and natural heritage, together with eno-gastro delicacies, innovatively and creatively to make the total experience of an event and destination authentic and unforgettable.
Q8: What perils do new technologies adopted during the corona crisis hide?
It is a fact that the different limitations and distancing during the COVID crisis peak also resulted in a partial social alienation among the population. To an extent, some of the socialisation aspects will never return to their pre-pandemic forms, and they will be permanently replaced by the new technological, i.e. online, socialisation models. This may be a problem by itself, knowing how sudden technological changes may harm social structure and cohesion.
Q9: What should the meetings industry do to attract talented individuals among its ranks?
Promoting the advantages of working in the meetings industry in the educational institutions providing programs for the meeting industry or related sectors and in the specialised MICE media, but also in the media targeted at the young audience may also attract the younger generations. The entire travel industry, in many aspects, offers dynamic and interesting work experiences through the opportunities for meeting new destinations, cultures, people… A position in the meeting industry opens up different possibilities of combining holiday experience with work, i.e. the experience of hanging out and creating business contacts with professionals from all over the world at interesting and attractive destinations on all continents. All of this may be very attractive for the individuals interested in travelling and experiencing new destinations, but also for those interested in work that largely takes place outside the standard office environment. Particularly after the corona crisis, it is important to ensure workplace flexibility for the workers, so it is preferable to facilitate workforce mobility, both domestically and abroad, as well as remote work. Alongside creative and dynamic work, it is also necessary to ensure attractive conditions for work and career development, as well as the possibilities for continuous education.
Q10: Have you noticed that work within the industry is not as desired among the younger generations? What could be the reason behind a significant shortage of staff?
The tourism sector and the MICE segment, in particular, includes activities most affected by the corona crisis. Uncertainty, whether caused by healthcare, social or war circumstances, is very damaging for travelling and is one of the reasons why the workers move to other, more certain sectors. Another reason for any reduced interest for this type of work may potentially be the current financial conditions, i.e. salaries. An appropriate financial compensation, combined with enabling different indirect benefits, can increase the interest of the younger population in entering the labour market in the meeting industry.
Q11: What is your recommendation for young colleagues starting their professional path?
I recommend attending organised education of national and international professional MICE associations, and after that connecting first with the domestic partners from various segments involved in the event organisations, so that they may have the opportunity to discover the best industry segment in accordance with their ambitions, talents and personal traits through interaction with the industry stakeholders.
Another recommendation for young colleagues is to be proactive and explore the types of jobs that would suit them best during their studies by taking part-time jobs or through internship models. In addition, I suggest they take the initiatives accordingly and contact the companies they would like to join, at least temporary during their studies.
Find out more about the Croatian National Tourist Board here.