The inaugural ICCA Asia Pacific Summit 2019 took place in Penang this month (5 to 6 December), signalling the association’s renewed focus on the APAC region.
Jointly held with BE @ Penang, the dual conferences, organised by Penang Convention & Exhibition Bureau and ICCA Asia Pacific chapter, registered 40 speakers from 20 countries and 300 delegates from the Asia Pacific and global business events industry.
Themes of creativity and innovation dominated discussion throughout the two-day event, along with data interpretation, event design, and new ways to assess legacy impacts.
Over the course of the summit, ICCA president, James Rees, shared a consistent message: to make the association more innovative and inclusive.
Rees expressed his interest in understanding the needs and pressures of Asia Pacific members and for ICCA to deliver tailored services to address these.
“This inaugural meeting is to share views and knowledge and to network so we can understand the unique needs of the region and plan the future of ICCA in Asia Pacific.”
He told members in his keynote address: “I want Asia Pacific members to voice out what you need from ICCA membership that would allow us to adapt our services to provide you with the resources to acquire more business.”
ICCA’s membership currently stands at more than 1,100 member companies and organisations, most of which are based in Europe. But, Asia Pacific membership is catching up, with 291 members in 2019 (compared to 97 members in 1995), making it the second largest region by membership after Europe.
During a closed-door session with members, Rees listened to concerns (and suggestions) close to members’ hearts, including lobbying for government support, establishing national committees, and collaborating with academia, among others.
He shared his intentions of grooming future leaders of ICCA through a shadow board programme, made up of leaders under the age of 35, representing the different regions. He also spoke about creating new services and sponsorships to bring in additional revenue for the association to reinvest into its members.
Hopeful of the changes that Rees plans to bring to ICCA, along with a sharpened focus on Asia Pacific members, Steve Armitage, general manager of Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development, said: “I think James delivered a really strong and positive message which resonates with members who are smaller or on the periphery.”
He added: “We need to build a sense of community among Asia Pacific members and understand our collective strength. That way, we can work cohesively as an Asia Pacific community.”
Similarly, Peumi Peiris, assistant manager for research, development, trade standards and association meetings at Sri Lanka Convention Bureau, felt that the summit was timely to address the pressing needs of the region.
She said: “ICCA Asia Pacific chapter has come of age and it’s great to have our own event finally. I’m meeting so many members and suppliers within the Asia Pacific business events ecosystem and it’s given me the opportunity to learn how they handle their marketing and operational issues.”
Kitty Wong, president of Taiwan-based PCO K&A International, noted the strength of Asia Pacific ICCA members and the important role they play in the meetings industry.
“Asia Pacific has many successful venue operators, PCOs and suppliers that we should all learn from. ICCA should acknowledge them and tap into these resources to benefit its members,” Wong said.
Jane Vong Holmes, senior manager (Asia) at GainingEdge, echoed the general opinion: “ICCA’s growth is not just about membership numbers or revenue. It’s also about building capacities within the membership. And that actually must come from us, members in Asia Pacific.”
“I hope we can have more of these meetings and conversations among Asia Pacific members about how we can work together to achieve that,” she added.