Industry leaders take the meetings message to the Brussels Bubble as part of EU Dialogue

On 17 April, the ‘EU Dialogue: Driving Positive Change in the Meetings Industry’ took place in Brussels, an event that was an official part of the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.  Over 180 industry professionals and European policy makers from 15 countries/EU member states took part. The event featured insights from 52 expert speakers and facilitated robust discussions, aimed at driving tangible progress towards recognition by European policy makers.

Patrick Bontinck, CEO at, one of the co-organisers of the event, said: “Today, everyone is talking about positive impact. The conference demonstrated what this term means for the meetings industry. We now have a clear idea of how the sector can contribute to organising events that highlight the advantages of a destination, its intellectual capital and its infrastructure, while maximising its overall impact towards greater diversity, equality and inclusion... This event also highlighted the fact that we should speak more of the Visitor Economy rather than just 'tourism,' as this term more fully encompasses and represents the entire ecosystem.”

“Explaining the importance of the event industry to policy is a bit like running a never-ending marathon. At the same time, it is critical to continue to do so. The EU Dialogue was a great example of the value these dialogues can bring,” global venue association AIPC CEO Sven Bossu, who took part in the meetings, told EW.

Economy and operating conditions, sustainability, digitalisation, data, travel and mobility, innovation and entrepreneurship were all touched upon in different session formats throughout the day's Dialogue.

According to a McKinsey report published earlier this year, CEOs across the world struggle with AI/technology, sustainability, talent attention/retention, geopolitics and the fact that the economy is very different than five years ago – exactly the topics touched upon throughout the day. Several speakers referred to examples outside the event industry as a point of reference.

Bossu also noted: “Good cocktails result in something nicer than the separate ingredients and that was definitely the case at this event. Both the plenary sessions and breakouts had a mix of European policy makers, event industry leaders and clients having open discussions about challenges faced and – even more importantly – trying to find solutions. For example: one topic which came back regularly is how to make sure that the output of discussions like these, held in the ‘Brussels Bubble’ make it to the persons and organisations outside that bubble, and it was great to see that policy makers and the EU administration understand the concern and actually are taking action – also financially – to remediate this.”

Bossu added that the EU Dialogue had also demonstrated one of the core assets of the event industry: the willingness to exchange information and best practices in order to elevate the industry to the next level. “While I now have witnessed it many times, it never stops to amaze me how generous our industry leaders are when it comes to ‘giving back’. Unique assets we have and ones to treasure dearly.”

Nick Dugdale-Moore, UFI regional director for Europe, also participated in a special panel at the EU Dialogue event. He said:Congratulations to all of the organisers: JMIC Joint Meetings Industry Council European Exhibition Industry Alliance Visit Brussels and City Destinations Alliance | CityDNA and congratulations to Marta Gomes for being a great moderator.

Other industry contributors to the Brussels debate included UFI ‘s CEO Kai Hattendorf; Alexander Alles from the JMIC and Barbara Weizsäcker, secretary general from EMECA and Roland Bleinroth, CEO from Messe Stuttgart and chairman of EMECA – European Major Exhibitions Centers Association.

James Rees, President of The Joint Meetings Industry Council added: “The business events sector builds and operates the marketplaces and meeting places for various industries to gather, exchange ideas, and create solutions for the pressing challenges we face today. This event aimed to raise awareness about the industry's broad impact and its potential for further development.”