By: Andrés Escandón, ICCA Regional Director Latin America & the Caribbean

The Latin America Thought Leadership Session was a remarkable opportunity to share insights, knowledge and experiences between industry colleagues on the current landscape of the meetings industry, globally and regionally. The joint efforts from ICCA’s Latin American and Iberian chapters were definitely of great value for everyone. We are united not only by our language and history, but also in the common purpose of reactivation and transformation. We have been through the most challenging year for our industry in modern times, and now we finally see light at the end of the tunnel.

Overall, there is an optimistic outlook for the meetings industry. Concrete steps were taken last year from the entire meetings ecosystem in terms of biosafety, technology and events experience. Our members have invested a great deal of time, energy and resources to adapt and strengthen their value-proposition so that international meetings will have a safer, more flexible and technological infrastructure to enhance the events’ experience and outcome.

A few key takeaways:

Associations - our raison-d’être - are more willing now to participate in face-to-face meetings. According to health data from the region, most of the Latin American health workers are already vaccinated, therefore, the perception of security and confidence is much better today for medical congresses. Also, there is a growing “zoom fatigue” from associations, pushing the need for the return of face-to-face events.

Biosafety: as an industry, we must work towards the unification of health protocols in our regions. Currently, there are different rules and regulations from country to country, not to mention that every association has their own biosafety protocols and standards. An integration of these protocols can help reactivation efforts. Also, vaccine passports will be a reality in the coming months, therefore, vaccination efforts will be a determinant factor for Latin American countries.

Emerging destinations are playing a more active role in the meetings ecosystem. For associations, it’s not anymore about the size of the city, but how flexible, adaptable and safe the meetings infrastructure is.

Technology: digital events technology always existed; the pandemic forced its use upon association meetings. However, contrary to a general belief, technology is far from a replacement for face-to-face events. Technology is a complement, a tool to boost and enhance the event experience. Hybrid models are where we must focus our efforts.

Restrictions: we must work together to communicate that #MeetingsMeanRecovery. Our activity has a tremendous impact on the development of our communities. We have invested significant time and resources into making our activities safer for everyone. Attending a congress or a conference in our destination is one of the most supervised activities by local health authorities. We know our venues are as safe as they can get, but unfortunately, our clients don’t know this as clearly as we think they do. Even more so, our customers’ customers don’t know this at all.

People give life to our industry

As the ICCA Regional Director Latin America & the Caribbean, I believe in the positive impact meetings and business events have on the social, cultural, economic, scientific, academic and political development of our societies. I believe in an industry that encourages the exchange of experiences and knowledge. I believe in an industry that creates jobs. I believe in an industry that fosters human interactions, connections and relationships. I believe in a multidisciplinary and multicultural industry that is inclusive and diverse. I believe in an industry that is always improving and innovating. And above all, I believe in the people behind this amazing industry. I believe in every and each one of the people working day in and day out towards the creation of value for our community and stakeholders. I believe in their creativity, their vision, their drive, their passion, their purpose. It is the people who give life to our industry, and that is where we must focus our attention and efforts. I truly believe the meetings industry will prevail.