World Meetings Forum 2015 AmericasFeatures

The 2015 edition of World Meetings Forum (WMF) took place in the idylic beach resort of Cancun, Mexico, in early June, gathering 300 professionals from the exhibition and MICE industries, exploring topics specific to Mexico, Latin America and the rest of the world.

The event was attended by delegates including international association presidents, corporate buyers, specialist suppliers and keynote speakers and national and international press. More than 950 appointments were scheduled using the tabletop networking space throughtout the three days.

It was the event’s third outing, directed again by Mexican organiser and publisher MasExpos. The company has wrestled with the best way in which to approach the manifold disciplines within the exhibition and MICE industry, and in 2014 split the event into two separate co-located entities, with WMF joined by a counterpart element, the World Trade Show Forum (WTSF). The event loosely followed two different agendas on two different day, with the first given over to workshops and special interest sessions.

This year the event, ostensibly taking place again under the two titles, instead had a daily structure related to three different strands of business tourism. Day one covered the matter of globalisation, day two was dedicated to event industry support and advocacy, with the third focused on technology. With one plenary hall for all sessions, both the WMF and WTSF brands were catered for together.

This fact that it brings together the exhibition and congress markets, as well as related business events and tourism, remains one of the more progressive aspects of the event. The industry has after all moved into a place whereby these markets often cross over and a working knowledge of all elements is fundamental to the success of a new project.

Chief among WMF’s goals this year was raising the awareness of the need to lobby the corridors of power, the public sector facilitators of our events, more effectively. To this end the event saw the launch of the Meetings Mean Business coalition in Latin America, an association that has been lobbying at a senior level to improve the perception of, and support for, business events in North America. The coalition’s message was clear; it seeks to boost support for our industry from sectors of industry and the public sector that are necessary for making our events happen; the uninitiated that enable the industries our exhibitions and events are conceived to serve. MasExpos has taken it upon itself to press this campaign in Mexico and Latin America.

Continuing another annual theme, WMF again convened a meeting with the presidents of global tourism associations to establish agreements and deliver results during 2015.

Commenting on MasExpo’s approach to achieving this goal, CEO Rafael Hernandez told EW: “Commentary and discussion is all fine, but our industry’s progress is dependent on realistic, attainable goals. Gathering the associations and agreeing on such goals enables them to invest in each other and progress in a logical, reasoned fashion.

“If we can come together and forge in one direction, we will all reach a common mission.”

In addition to strengthening the hand of Meetings Mean Business Latin America, there was also a platform for Support Meetings Creating America Day, giving continuity to what began life as the North America Meetings Industry Day (NAMID), an initiative aimed at improving education, training and professionalisation in the industry.

The sessions of course tackled many of the key issues being discussed by such groups.

MPI’s chairwoman of sustainability Fiona Pelham, ICCA’s Daniel Palomo, PCMA’s Ray Kopcinski and COCAL’s Alisson Batres took to the stage to highlight the strengths of their associations.

Batres retook the stage later in the prgramme, joining editor-in-chief of Másexpos Congress & Conventions magazine Verenize Dominguez, who was awarding Batres among other industry personalities such as Eduardo Chaillo and Jaime Salazar of Mexico.

Key international speakers at the event included the former Secretary of Tourism of Mexico, Oscar Espinosa; deputy GM of the National Council of the US Travel Association Nan Marchand; president of Maritz Travel David Peckinpaugh; president of US-based exhibition industry association IAEE David Dubois; Michael Dominguez of MGM Resorts International; and Roger Rickard, founder of Voices in Advocacy.

Maritz Travel had a strong presence at the event this year, with three of its executives taking it upon themselves to discuss industry trends. CEO David Peckinpaugh was joined by Eduardo Chaillo, representative of Latin America and his counterpart in Asia and Europe, Ben Goedegebuure, formerly the MD of the SECC exhibition centre in Scotland, UK.

Keynote speakers at this year’s event included Canadian entrepreneur and founder of a sports goods chain Donald Cooper, Austrian musician Miha Pogacnik, professional talent violinist Kai Kight and Dr Carlos Otero, who with his character Manito, helped connect attendees with his spectacular presentation, all provided by speakers bureau Allenamenti.

This year the final day of the event was given over to the technology firms, both established and emerging, who took to the stage in an effort to push their solutions for an industry that now embraces the digital world rather than willingly disparages it. Key speakers on the day included Marco Giberti and his new business associates Aidan Augustin, as well as Jay Weintraub, Juraj Holub and Roli Chierasco.

When the work was done, networking continued at Hotel Intercontinental Cancun, the Hard Rock Hotel Cancun, a traditional hacienda and, at the end of the final day, on a catamaran; networking at sea – with a well oiled and, let’s face it; captive, audience – provided plenty else to talk about.