The 1st International Meetings Industry Conference (IMIC) took place in Athens, Greece, from 19th to 21st of November 2004, inaugurating the International Meetings Industry Conferences series. The organisation of IMIC is aimed at creating a reoccurring international conference that will concern the meetings industry as a whole and will constitute another meeting point for professionals and scientists within the sector.
About 40 Greek and foreign speakers and participants of the three round table discussions, which took place during the conference, covered a wide range of topics concerning both the Greek and International conference market, examining new trends and prospects in the area of strategy, politics, legislation, marketing, sales, equipment, organisation, management, technical specifications etc.
In his greeting professor C.Coccossis, Secretary General of the Greek National Tourist Organisation, underlined that in the present post-Olympics period the development of conference-exhibition tourism constitutes a basic priority for Greece, and in his welcome speech Mr G Fokas, president of the Greek Chamber of Hotels, emphasised the fact that conference tourism should constitute one of the main strategic goals of Greek tourism policy.
In his introductory speech Mr K Konstantinides, CEO of Heliotopos Conferences – the organisers of the conference – referred to the new conditions and conference market that are developing during a time of globalisation.
Tony Rogers, Executive Director of both the British Association of Conference Destinations (BACD) and the Association of British Professional Conference Organisers (ABPCO), discussed the huge importance of education and training of executives and employees in the conference industry due to the high quality required by this kind of tourism, and also the very intense competition amongst the some 200 countries that are part of the international market. Meanwhile Professors S. Avgoustis and A. Cecil, from the University of Indiana USA, referred to the role that modern distance learning programmes can play in the industry of conferences, incentive travel and exhibitions.
The president of the Romanian Convention Bureau, Mr R. Cimponeriu, passed on his great experience and noted, amongst other things, the already large amount of competition in the international market of professional tourism and that the acquisition of a part of the market requires particular policies. Mr D. Koutoulas, lecturer at the University of Macedonia, discussed international practice and financial and operational characteristics of CVBs.
Mr Christer Carlsson, head of Annual Meetings and Event Management at the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development, analysed topics concerning large-scale conferences of international economic organisations and discussed details about one such conference.
Mrs M. Lichrou from the University of Limerick in Ireland analysed the particularities and problems that may occur when promoting a tourist destination due to conflicting interests of local producers and of the local population of a region.
The speech by Mrs Meral Korzay, professor at the University of Bogazici in Turkey, was received with particular interest as she discussed the creation of sites for cultural and exhibition events in the Fener and Balat districts of Istanbul, and both the problems and opportunities that have arisen.
Mr K. Kartalis, General Secretary of the Olympic Games at the Greek Ministry of Culture, emphasised that the inheritance of the Olympic Games does not only concern infrastructure, but more importantly the positive portrayal of Greece abroad, which must be taken advantage of immediately as it will soon wear off. In his speech about the effects on a destination’s image from the organisation of hall-mark events, Mr G Drakopoulos, General Director of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises, stressed firstly the decisive importance of speed and systematic activity for the capitalization of publicity that Greece gained as a result of the Olympic Games, and secondly the need for cooperation between the public and private sector.
Mr Z Kaplanidis, an economist with a very broad professional and unionist experience in the conference organising sector, referred to the significant positive economic effects of conferences on the economy and on employment. Meanwhile Mrs E Hatzinikolaou, Director of Studies and Investment for the Greek National Tourism Organisation(GNTO), analysed the sector’s subordinate legal and financing framework and referred to action that has been taken by the GNTO up until now in order to promote the creation of local CVBs.
Mr T. Koumanis, president of the Association of Greek Exhibition & Conferences Organisers, referred to the need to create a modern legal framework for exhibitions and conferences, and requested that the Ministry of Tourism Development take on responsibility for exhibitions as well. Under the status of general secretary of Athens CVB he also pointed out that this faces very serious economic problems.
On the basis of international experience, the ex-president of the GNTO, Mr I. Patellis, referred to the parameters that play a role in the establishment of a conference destination and also presented a large number of facts concerning conferences that are relevant all over the world.
The presentation of research results by Professor P. Tsartas of the University of the Aegean and Mrs E. Grimba was particularly interesting as conclusions and problems concerning professional travel research were examined. It was also very interesting to hear the presentation of Professor S. Gounari and Mrs K. Polixronaki, both from the University of Economics, who referred to the impression that various tourist groups who visited the country during the Olympic Games had of Greece.
Mr P. Zounis from the Panteion University referred to the subject of sponsorship as an important means of gaining financial resources for conferences, whilst Mr E. Voulgaris, vice-chairman of S&B Industrial Minerals S.A, discussed a company’s social responsibility and the opportunities that are available in the field of conference organisation, and also passed on his experience from the creation and operation of the Milos Conference Centre and “Milos Conferences” Institution.
The subject of the first of three round table discussions to take place during the conference was also sponsorship, in which the general director of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises Mr G. Drakopoulos took part, as well as the manager of Public Relations at the IMAKO Media Group S.A. Mrs D. Daskalaki, the general secretary of the Hellenic Purchasing Institute Mr S. Mittmann, the public relations manager of Efharis Estate Mrs M. Zefeiropoulou, and two others mentioned above. Through their primary contributions and answers to the audience’s questions, the participants outlined sponsors’ goals, procedures and ways in which to attract sponsors, and the size and trends of Greek and international reality.
Prospects and advantages of ‘virtual conferences’ were analysed by Professor Z. Agioutantis from the Technical University of Crete, who also underlined the fact that this is an alternative solution to holding conferences that requires a very serious infrastructure of materials technology in order to be carried out correctly. Mr P. Podimatas, general manager of P.Podimatas Audiovisuals S.A., discussed new technological capabilities of audiovisual conference equipment.
Project manager of Xenia Exhibitions and Conferences S.A., Mr N. Koumanis, presented the problems facing exhibition organisers in Greece and referred to both the lack of suitable exhibition centres in Athens and the prospects for their creation.
Professor M. Santamouris of the University of Athens discussed the quality of atmosphere in areas inside conference facilities, underlining the fact that from 1/1/2006 all buildings – including conference centres – must be classified according to energy consumption.
The second round table discussion of the conference concerning investment in conference facilities heard the speech of Mrs M. Manousou from the magazine ‘Tourism Market’, in which she analysed the size and types of conference centres and areas that exist in Greece. During this round table problems and investment prospects of conference tourism in Greece were examined with regards to the development of relevant inquiry, of incentives and relevant legislation, of marketing and promotion within international markets, of co-operation requirements etc. Mr N. Kontakis, Sales Director of Maris Hotels and of the independent conference centre Creta Maris, Mr T. Koumanis, president of the Association of Greek Exhibition & Conference Organisers, Mrs E. Hatzinikolaou from the Greek National Tourism Organisation, and Mrs I. Varda Capsis, sales and marketing director from Capsis Convention Centres & Resort Hotels, all took part in this round table.
Professor E. Kondylis, director of MBA Tourism Management at the University of Piraeus, analysed topics such as productivity, efficiency and how these are related to overall customer satisfaction.
Professors Z. Agioutantis and K. Komnitsas from the Technical University of Crete discussed the role of and possible uses of modern technology tools in organising and preparing conferences. The professors referred to topics such as planning management of a conference’s financial resources, the framework of electronic presentations, correct presentation of texts destined for practical conferences, amongst others. In addition to this they referred to the subject of making the best choice of press and written analysis for various conference applications.
Mrs Connie Lambrou Phillipson, president of the Institute of Paleonutrition, presented the advantages of the Mediterranean Diet and its possibility of being included in the meal menu at conference events. Meanwhile Mr D. Michaelides, representative of the European Regional Culinary Heritage Network, referred to the need to embody local cultural tradition and gastronomy within Greece’s tourist product.
In his speech the general secretary of the Hellenic Purchasing Institute, Mr S. Mittmann, referred just as much to the importance of making savings (time, money, labour) and to minimizing the risk that a company takes when it entrusts the organisation of a conference event to a specialised external collaborator, as to the ways in which this rapprochement can give an added worth and other advantages to all those who take part in the event.
Mr K Konstantinides of Heliotopos Conferences spoke about techniques, priorities and the bidding procedure for an international conference, followed by Mrs I Varda Capsis from Capsis Convention Centres & Resort Hotels who, together with Mr P Podimatas from P.C. Podimatas Audiovisuals, presented the details of their successful bid for the ICCA 2006.
During the third round table Mr R Cimponeriu from the Romanian Convention Bureau, Mr S Avgoustis from the University of Indiana, Mr D Koutoulas from the University of Macedonia and Mr C Carlsson from the EBRD examined characteristics, prospects, and opportunities, and expanded on their problems with regards to the growing demand for conferences in our country – and not only on the basis of the characteristics of the international market.
The conference was followed not only by delegates from the entire spectrum of the conference market, but also by company and organisation executives who are interested in carrying out conference events and obtained relevant information to do so. Foreign delegates and speakers had the opportunity to get informed about the Greek conference market and to look for collaboration.
The above speeches and contributions will be issued in the conference’s Book of Proceedings that will be published in the English language at the beginning of 2005.
The 2nd International Meetings Industry Conference will take place, in Athens, Greece, from 9th to 11th of February 2006.