Changing world is changing tourism

Sunday 3, August 2014


Changing world is changing tourism


Building upon the success of the first Professional Convention Management Association’s (PCMA) Global Corporate Summit, PCMA held its 2nd summit by bringing together some of the most senior global meeting executives in the world


This exclusive invitation-only event took place at the Milano Congressi (MiCo) on July 16-20, 2014 designed to allow global corporate meeting planners to collectively take a deeper look at issues they are facing in this dynamic global environment.


It is for a second time that PCMA hit the ground in Europe, with its first Global Corporate Summit being held in Glasgow, Scotland.


PCMA is the multi-channel professional resource and premier educator for leaders in the meetings, conventions, events, and trade show industries. PCMA provides their 6,000+ members with a community of like-minded colleagues, innovative education, and creative global solutions to enhance both their professional development and their organization's face-to-face and virtual connections. Headquartered in Chicago, PCMA has 17 chapters throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico with members in more than 35 countries.


While MiCo is the brand-new magic formula for Milan’s latest conference center - situated at the old Fair Grounds of Fiera Amendola and now called Fieracity - it has proven to be a perfect venue to host the second PCMA Global Corporate Summit outside of the USA.


When Milan Fairgrounds moved to RHO outside of the city some years ago, the old fairground was partly dismantled and made place for an entirely new living complex, while some of the large exhibition halls were transformed.


MiCo was a former huge exhibition hall with a large parking area on the roof-top of the building which caused many drivers (including me) plenty of headaches and dizziness some year ago, driving up and around all those narrow bends leading up to the ninth floor.


The former exhibition hall now wears a new hat which:

  • reminds very much on Frank O. Gehry’s City of Wine Complex in Rioja/Spain, and
  • the Convention Center of Milan (MiCo) has seating for 18,000 people, with 70 rooms, a huge auditorium, and 2 plenary rooms seating with one room seating 4,000 people and the other seating 2,000 people.


But all that space was not needed for the PCMA Global Corporate Meeting of 2014, which assembled in an exclusive small group, seated on comfortable white chairs and sofas.


According to Stephan Archer, an economic analyst on globalization, and his survey, “The 10 Best Places for Meetings in 2014,” Oslo is in the number one position, followed by Vancouver, Athens, Vienna, Botswana, Shanghai, and Bogota.


This could, however, be controversially discussed as security and health concerns are constantly changing the global landscape. Surveys and travel trend forecasts for the next 3-5 years are less indicative, as the travel industry is undergoing rapid changes due to political turmoil, economic blockades, and more.


The latest sanctions on Russia applied by US President Obama and the European Union (EU) put into action only a few days ago, have caused shockwaves on Wall Street and other stock exchanges around the world. Moreover, these sanctions have a vital damaging impact on the tourism industry in Western Europe and beyond.

The new travel restrictions for Russians (coming up soon) will leave a big gap in the global economy, especially for luxury hotels in Europe that will have a very tough time, as they all depend largely on affluent Russian travelers. As a matter of fact, Russian tour operators selling Europe on a large scale are afraid they will lose their core business and may even go out of business, some Russian agencies have said.


With the freeze on Russian financial assets, big spenders will have a hard time now, which was one of the reasons that many Russians went out to spend money on a large scale during the last few months.


It is no wonder that the dream wedding in July on Lake Como of Julia Blavatnik, daughter of the Russian-born tycoon and owner of the Warner Music Group, Lenoid Blavatnik, was off limits. The wedding dinner was crowned by a private concert by “Sir” Robbie Williams and Eros Ramanzotti along with various Russian rock groups flown in directly from Moscow for the wedding couple. There were unforgettable fireworks; Champagne and caviar; and you just name it, it was likely there, costing a little more than 3 million euros and bringing happy smiles to shopkeepers, restaurants, and hoteliers during a rainy month of July.


Today, Italian news is speaking loudly of “meteo” terrorism (weather terrorism) this summer. But the fact is that Italy’s tourism industry has lost over 765 million euros in month of July 2014 alone, suffering a notable downturn in tourism of 15-20% during the month of July (normally the high season).


Hotels are suffering, as heavy rainfalls are lead to cancellations of hotel rooms, and closed beach sides and infrastructures. Venice is already hoping that the weather forecast for rain does not go beyond 4 days.


For the delegates of PCMA, the weather seemed to have changed in Milan for that time period when Italy showed what an Italian summer used to be - simply hot. But at the end of the event, the rain took over again, flooding Milan for another time in July.


This also shows the tremendous challenges that meeting planners are facing today – as it is not only about the venue and event itself anymore, it is much more than that. It is also about the completely new and unpredictable economic and political instability which leads to a path towards an entirely new approach and new way of thinking within the global meetings industry.


With the shooting down of a passenger plane on a route used by mostly all airlines, risk management and a high amount of flexibility is needed more than ever. For that, the Vancouver “I am Ted” Convention was very illuminating to PCMA delegates as it clearly leads the path for new dimensions and different shapes of conventions.

In a recent report from New York dated July 31, recent events have prompted some people to grow fearful of international flying. According to the poll conducted for “TheStreet” by GfK1, it shows that more than one third of Americans agree that recent political turmoil has made them afraid to fly internationally which brings back the question of how much globalization do we need?


In times where quick reactions and decisions are needed more than “global solutions,” a new focus is needed to look into regional developments – paired with deep inside knowledge as well - as security and health issues, frightening ebola, ongoing unrests, shrinking budgets, heavy sanctions, and embargos will have a big impact and create a big challenge for meeting planner and travel industry professionals around the globe.



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