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ICCA History

ICCA's History: a short walk through the first half century of the association's development

We would like to thank and pay tribute to Martin Kinna of the Convention Partnership, past Board member and regular ICCA Congress stalwart throughout much of this period, and without whose prodigious memory this history would have been impossible to compile. Martin has now retired but has been a generous, much-respected mentor to many of the current generation of meetings industry leaders.
Also make sure to have a look at the ICCA history interactive timeline which was created for the celebration of ICCA's 50-year anniversary in 2013, and at the advocacy report "A modern history of international association meetings - Update: 1963-2017",.
The concept of ICCA was first discussed by travel agents Moises Shuster from Mexico and Jean Claude Murat from Paris, to take advantage of the then-new phenomenon of international association meetings which were being stimulated by the introduction of commercial jet aircraft, and particularly the potentially lucrative medical meetings field.  The unique original idea was to share information between friendly business owners based in different countries to obtain competitive advantage and win a bigger slice of the travel revenue from this fast emerging market.  Sharing information about international association meetings for business advantage continues to be the central theme of ICCA's Mission almost five decades later.
Moises and Jean Claude involved five other travel agents from other regions of the world in their discussions, and the International Congress and Convention Association was duly founded by these seven original members in Paris.  Later that year ICCA held its first formal meeting of the association in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, attracting a grand total of 16 participants!  From its very beginnings ICCA was conceived as a genuinely global entity. The seven founders have now sadly all passed away, but today’s ICCA is recognisably the offspring of their original, visionary concept.
Membership steadily increased, especially in Latin America, and KLM became the first airline to become involved in ICCA, although the rules at that time meant that they could only have "associate member" status.  A "First Technical Secretary" was appointed based in Paris to run the association as a volunteer leader, the first ICCA logo was designed, and the momentous decision was made to open ICCA to other types of members in addition to the original travel agency category.  Later that year the Mexico Tourist Board became the first destination marketing organisation to apply to join.
ICCA started marketing itself seriously: the first ever brochure was published.
On 13 October ICCA's legal status was confirmed under Dutch law with the first formal set of notarised Articles and By-laws, which were to become the subject of many future revisions and heated debates at ICCA General Assemblies.
The first official Head Office was set up in The Hague in The Netherlands.  By now there were 76 member companies, including the first "Ancillary Services" member, the car rental company Avis.
ICCA continued to grow, and the very first geographical Chapter was set up covering Latin America.  Geoffrey Grey-Forton became Acting Executive Director, and management of the association started to become more professional and less volunteer-led in character.
Membership now passed 160 companies from 41 countries, and a major restructuring of the association into eight Categories was approved at the annual General Assembly in Paris.  This structure remained in place until 2006, although it wouldn’t be until 1978 that all member companies were given equal governance rights.  At this stage, only companies from the original Travel Agency Category could stand for President or hold seats on the Board.
John E Moreu was appointed as the first full-time, salaried Executive Director, and the Head Office moved from The Hague to Amsterdam, the city where ICCA continues to be located today.
The first semi-automated information system was introduced, making the sharing of ICCA data much simpler.  Regular paper "bulletins" were sent to members with the latest information about specific international association meetings.
ICCA joined the Information Revolution with the setting up of its first computerised database, a massive investment and commitment at that time for a relatively small trade association.
Equality arrives!  ICCA's By-laws were amended to give full and equal governance rights to all members, regardless of which Category they belonged to.
Growth continued, with 264 member companies and organisations in 69 countries, and Head Office staff increased to seven.
Dick Ouwehand was appointed as Secretary General, following the retirement of John Moreu.
ICCA elected its first female President, Jacqueline Pietri from Nice Convention Bureau.
Dick Ouwehand retired, and Tom Hulton took over, with the job title changing first to Executive Director, then to CEO.  This year also saw the first edition of ICCA's Research, Sales & Marketing programme, originally known as the "ICCRM", our most important annual event for frontline sales, marketing and research executives, as its name now suggests.
ICCA renamed its annual most important event as the "ICCA Congress", and encouraged industry leaders from outside the membership to attend a much more comprehensive strategic education programme.
ICCA opened its first regional office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
ICCA set up a representative office for North America.
The regional office for Latin America opened in Montevideo, Latin America.
Martin Sirk was appointed as CEO.  Membership by this date had climbed to just over 600 companies and organisations.
A new governance structure was adopted as part of a major strategic review, with eight Categories reduced to five Sectors, and new Board representative positions created for five geographical regions, ensuring that ICCA's global character is always fully reflected by the make-up of the Board of Directors.
ICCA Head Office moved to the current office building in Amsterdam; Asia Pacific office moved into new premises in Malaysia to enable the association to set up a new Global Research Centre to work alongside the established Head Office Research team.
In 2010 Arnaldo Nardone was elected as President at the 49th ICCA Congress in Hyderabad, India. In 2012 he was re-elected at the ICCA Congress in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

At the ICCA Congress in Puerto Rico, ICCA's 50th Anniversary was announced. More information is available on the ICCA website:
ICCA celebrates its 50th anniversary year. ICCA membership now encompasses almost 1,000 member companies and organisations in over 90 countries worldwide, and the association continues to be the most knowledgeable global source of research tools, and sales and marketing opportunities relating to the international association meetings sector, as well as one of the most respected networking organisations for senior meetings industry executives.