Having been in the business events tourism industry for the last 25 years, it used to completely confuse me that ICCA members from all over the world, operating within the same field, offering similar or supporting services and often competing internationally for the same business, still collaborated by sharing their knowledge, experiences and challenges. Ultimately this has enabled professionalism and industry recognition within our sector.
But I soon realised the reason why members whom are competitors share so openly. It is because of the human factor. Whilst information and knowledge is around and readily available, the far-reaching benefit of true collaboration is not something that is embraced enough.
I came across an excellent research report by Accenture – “Harnessing the Power of Open Innovation Through Digital Collaboration.” The research points to three primary challenges faced by large companies and entrepreneurs as they attempt to increase collaborative work:
- An imbalance in perceived commitment to collaborative endeavour;
- A cultural divide between entrepreneurs and large companies;
- A lack of government support to effectively support collaboration between large and small companies.
In the Foreword of the research paper, the Chief Executive of Accenture South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, Mr. William Mzimba says, and I quote: “Digitalisation changes the game. It blurs boundaries between industry sectors, lowers barriers to entry and creates bridges. As new partnerships made up of players from different industry sectors begin to form around the customer to offer not just products but solutions and “experiences”, innovation is laying the groundwork for companies to thrive in a digital era, and for countries to create dynamic and competitive economies.”
So, with two key elements activated within the African continent - digitalisation and collaboration - the opportunities are endless! The work starts with working on relationships, understanding and trust between ICCA members in the region and globally to allow for this innovation to take flight. Change and new opportunities come about when we listen, are open and willing to work together.
Developed economies and countries whom have invested in and supported leisure tourism and the business events sector have reaped the economic rewards again and again. The importance of government investment in infrastructure development, both digital and structural, ensuring political and economic stability and strong leadership is directly linked to strong collaborative efforts between countries, companies and individuals. At the end of the day who wants to be aligned or associated with a partner that is not trusted, compliant and respected?
The opportunities for collaboration and mutual economic benefit are always there; they need to be approached with open-mindedness, mutual respect and the willingness to change.
Yours in ICCA,
Nina Freysen-Pretorius, ICCA President