The ninth selection of influencers by Kongres Magazine concluded with the award ceremony hosted in Cankarjev dom. The selected influencers are pioneers 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: In times of crisis, we tend to draw parallels with the past. What have we learned so far to make our industry better and more responsible to attendees and the environment in the future?
The essential thing we realised is that travelling and meeting people in person is a fundamental human need. That is a huge takeaway, especially for all those questioning the resilience of tourism and in-person meetings.
However, I am very reserved about what I believe we have learned, as opposed to what we should have learned. The world has moved upside-down in the last four years, and so many stakeholders from the entire tourism ecosystem didn’t have any contingency plan. That has caused a lot of sad things we witnessed, from businesses being shut down to huge layoffs, resignations, the rise of income inequalities etc. I say it’s sad because we could have learned so many lessons.
I am glad to see that the focus and the need for a more responsible and sustainable transformation didn’t vanish. I hope we will see the rise of a new push for a much more fair economic, social and environmental recovery.
Q2: What should we stop doing in regard to in-person events? Vice versa, what element should we not abandon at all costs?
Rethinking every step of business events management. From the DMO perspective, I believe we should lead as role models, educating and choosing only those industry partners and clients that are strictly committed to responsible and sustainable business models. That means we should be the first to integrate environmental practices in our daily actions and business plans, promoting continuous education and innovation, supporting rural and less developed destinations and striving for equal and diverse representation in our teams. Then we should ask our partners to do the same and be relentless in our push for this.
Q3: What is your take on the various event types, some invented during the corona crisis (live, digital, hybrid, metaverse)? How will we transition in the future?
I was never a fan of hybrid and digital meetings, especially big ones. I think some one-on-one meetings organised in-person pre-Covid times will now definitely move to the online space. Still, I am not capable to estimate what their share will be. I expect hybrid events to increase slightly, while metaverse events remain completely unfamiliar and strange to me.
Q4: How do different event types address the topical problem of human interaction, which is at the core of our industry and a basis for learning?
Nothing can replace in-person human interaction, and the more we move from that spectre, the less impact we can expect.
Q5: What are your priorities to reach the goal of creating a carbon-neutral meetings industry? How environmentally aware is your organisation? How do your clients see sustainability? Can you illustrate with case studies?
We are far from being environmentally friendly as much as we should be. And I believe the same could be said for our partners. That is not to say we are not doing anything. The carbon-neutral meeting industry is something impossible to reach without sustainable aviation fuel, but there are many things we can do before we find a solution for that.
As for the Serbia Convention Bureau, on the strategic level, we are working together with the Strategic Alliance of National Convention Bureaux of Europe on research and a whitepaper that should be used as a guideline for destinations all over Europe and the rest of the world for leveraging the destination influence for sustainability.
On a more tactical level, we integrated SDGs and Serbian progress for the set targets in our main promotional material with advice on where we can help event planners make the most significant impact. The next step planned for this year is the education of our industry partners and a joint push in our actions.
Q6: How do you imagine an ideal meetings industry? What should be its core value?
Responsible and fair. The meetings industry is already so inspiring and engaging, but I believe we lack more responsibility and fairness towards people, our communities, and the environment.
Q7: What is your advice for younger colleagues starting their careers in the meetings industry?
My advice is more or less always the same. Education can change your life. Always aim high, and be very ambitious but very strict with regard to how much you invest in your growth. You can always learn more. Stay humble and polite, and you will enjoy a wonderful career.
Q8: Who do you believe deserves the title of the TOP influencer if you had to select them from the list of finalists?
I think you guys are doing an amazing job searching for exceptional people, nominating them, establishing criteria and promoting the winners. In that regard, I feel extremely proud to be voted as the most influential destination representative for two years in a row now. However, I think so many of my colleagues deserve this title, and it is never easy to choose. Outside of Serbia, I admire and very much respect the work of the entire team from Slovenia, i.e., the work of Fredi Fontanot, Petra Stušek and Jan Oršič. I think there are also many more “silent heroes” from academia that inspire and motivate our future leaders. Thus, I suggest introducing a new category to your list 😉.