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Vital signs: ICCA Europe Summit provides a post-pandemic checkup

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Europe’s COVID-19 pandemic restrictions have lingered longer than most people would like, yet ICCA’s European Chapter chairs are seeing brighter days ahead. During their checkup at the Digital ICCA Europe Summit, each of them reported sunny skies from their locations across Europe and a positive outlook for the future of the industry. 

ICCA members are continuing to work closely together to share innovative ideas which has resulted in new partnerships. One example is the new ICCA Mediterreanan chapter that will spend the next two years building stronger connections in the region.  

“I think that we will come up with many fresh ideas and with building community within ICCA as we transition to the new era. We are here to connect, to create opportunities, and to hear you,” said Efi Koudeli, Deputy Chair, This is Athens – Convention & Visitors Bureau. 

As destinations look towards re-opening, they are also using the knowledge gained through collaborative resources such as the Good Practice Guide. Their commitment to health and safety is paying off. For instance, Messukeskus Helsinki Expo and Convention Centre has become the first Nordic country to be certified for exemplary work for Covid-19 safety. Another positive development is that many EU/EFTA countries are organising excellent financial assistance packages for the events industry. 

Strong signs of recovery

Overall, the insights from ICCA’s European chapters reveal that business is picking up, especially towards the end of the year. Large-scale test events have been held safely and successfully in cities such as Liverpool, Lisbon, and Barcelona. Vaccine programmes are progressing throughout Europe and, consequently, the possibilities for local and regional events are expanding in 2021. In August, Slovenia will host the Coventa MICE industry trade show in a hybrid format. 

Furthermore, chapters reported that as relaxed pandemic protocols are announced, they’re getting a surge in event inquiries. This proves the strong desire that people have to return to face-to-face meetings. 

“We have a high level of trust in one another and together we have trusted that we could get through these hard times. Now that we are seeing the light ahead of us we, of course, trust our industry and trust in a stronger future,” explained Annleyg Lamhauge, Chairperson, Visit Faroe Islands.

Trust is the best treatment

As Daniel Waigl, Executive Director of the Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiological Society of Europe (CIRSE) explained, trust will also be central to the relationship between associations and destinations going forward. 

“For an established medical association like CIRSE, our first priority is to do a conference. We only don’t hold it if we’re forced and we can’t deliver it. So I think this is the basis of the discussions in the future. Having a trustworthy relationship and knowing that an organisation like ours isn’t making an easy decision to cancel or postpone.”

CIRSE invested heavily in technology to provide online education to its members during the pandemic. However, the association is still eager to return to face-to-face meetings. They waited for as long as possible to make the final call on having an in-person meeting in 2021 and praised their venue partner’s flexibility in accommodating their altered timeline for the decision. 

As meetings return face-to-face, Daniel says his association will look for venues that can provide a robust online component to the meeting that is nearly synonymous with their in-person event. They’ll also look for cancellation flexibility and financial support packages. 

“I think we are seeing as a community that we need to find ways to not leave the organiser alone with the risk. We need to find models where we share the risk. If we are in agreement that we all want to do the congress, but sometimes it just isn’t possible, I think then we have a good basis for moving forward and getting back to the numbers and the impact that in-person congresses had before the pandemic.”

Creating a healthier mindset

It’s not enough to check up on the state of our industry if we ourselves are not in good health. 

Rachael Riggs, WellBeing Leader of Maritz Global Events, explained why taking a well-being approach benefits ourselves, our teams, and our events. 

“Well-being is the state of being happy, healthy and prosperous. It’s more than the physical body as it encompasses mental health, emotional state as well as productivity and performance. It’s the whole person.”

As we move to the new normal, we will all bring with us the learnings and adaptations that we gained during the COVID-19 pandemic. Leaning into transformation rather than preservation will help strengthen our resilience. “Resilience is the ability to overcome critical situations and look forward to continuing the past. But, don’t stick with the past because this creates fog for the future,” said Manuela Herrlein, CEO & Founder, Alpine One GmbH.

Ben Hunt Davis, Co-Founder & Director of Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?, provided a similar perspective. “Staying the same is risky, especially when so much has changed around us. Bear in mind the resilience that we’ve seen in the past year as you consider making changes.”

The global ICCA Community believes that transformation is a critical component of our industry’s revival. As such, we are continuing to provide support and education for our community through digital platforms, regional hubs, and chapter gatherings. In September, the ICCA France-Benelux chapter will meet face-to-face in Hasselt, Belgium. And, we are preparing for the 60th ICCA Congress on 24-27 October, a hybrid event hosted in Cartagena, Colombia. 

“We will keep developing our community, we will keep bringing our members together, so that as we start seeing re-openings we are strong as an industry,” said Senthil Gopinath, ICCA CEO. 

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