In my summer newsletter I wrote about ‘Hotel California’ (a rock song by the Eagles from 1977), comparing the residents of the hotel to people from the meetings industry. My newsletter for autumn shines a spotlight on yet another special hotel: ‘Grand Hotel Europa’, a best-selling novel by the Dutch writer Ilja Leonard Pfeijfer (40 years after ‘Hotel California’) that masterfully tells the story of a continent in decline.
This hotel is also inhabited by guests that could be compared to meetings industry professionals. Many people in our sector have travelled extensively and experienced much during their travels. What stories would they tell, seated in front of the fireplace of this dilapidated Grand Hotel in Venice?
Here’s what someone with a great deal of knowledge about the ageing population would say: “Between 2003 and 2013, the percentage of senior citizens has risen in practically all European countries. The ageing population is growing particularly fast in Italy, Germany and Greece. Ireland, on the other hand, still has a relatively young population: in 2013 it was the only country within the EU28 where more than 20 percent of the population was below the age of 15.”
Another guest speaks about European identity. “Does this exist?” they asked. “Juncker said in his farewell speech that there was one thing in which he did not succeed: bringing the Europeans together. Largely speaking, we all remain nationalists.”
There is also a conference organizer in the hotel, who speaks about the worn-out European conference palaces that urgently need to be renovated, except there is no money for this. “Many conference buildings in Europe are being expanded and renovated, but no new ones are being built,” they say. “The Meetings Industry (the new MICE) no longer takes place in our old hotel, but in Asia Pacific. While, here, conference venues have grown into iconic meeting places.”
All these guests would be right. There is, however, one thing Europe has succeeded in: the creation of a tourist monster that is rapidly gobbling up some of the most beautiful places. Cities like Barcelona, Amsterdam, Vienna and particularly Venice are besieged by barbaric masses of tourists. Instead, these cities should once again unite and make agreements with the tourist centres to focus on a new visitor profile: that of the conference-goer. By including the lessons learned from tourism into the management of conference and meetings, our industry would be safer and more sustainable than it currently is and it will put more money into these cities’ coffers.
What are we waiting for?
Text by Marcel A.M. Vissers
Editor in Chief of HQ Magazine
Supported by the Union of International Associations (UIA), the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO) and the Interel Group, the global public affairs and association management consultancy, Headquarters Magazines serve the needs of international associations organising worldwide congresses.