Destination selection depends heavily on the attractiveness of the venue, the social capital and its perceived value, but also on the partners on the ground who can offer a perfect experience. Destination management companies (DMCs) have always been great ambassadors for their cities and countries, upholding their features and merits when choosing the best destination for an event. Euromic is a member-owned not-for-profit association of DMCs with a proven track record of delivering exceptional events around the world. This year they celebrate their 50th anniversary, bringing decades of industry experience to the table with a portfolio of 51 handpicked and established members ready to help associations find their dream conferences.
On this special date, we spoke to executive director, Huw Tuckett (on the right hand side), about the state of the industry and how their membership is coping with digital tools, environmental certifications, the rebound of business, and female empowerment.
1) What does the world of destination management companies look like in 2023?
DMCs were in a tough place during the pandemic, having been caught in between client cancellations and supplier deposits. However, our members handled themselves very well and it was evident that those who established close relationships with clients and took better care of their deposits came out of the pandemic much stronger. They are seen today as strategic partners. In general, the perception of DMCs has changed a lot. In the early days, they were more order takers when clients merely booked services through them. During the pandemic, they started to take on negotiation terms, sharing cost containment strategies and adding value through their creativity and event services. Those first 18 months of re-bookings, cancellations and false starts, marked a difficult period working for very little revenue. As the world began to open up, they had to adapt to the circumstances, ensuring that all COVID-related protocols were developed and implemented in their frameworks. It was then that euromic came into play by helping our members to redefine force majeure contracts, sharing best practices and explaining how to implement COVID protocols. Costs are a huge factor, but I think now the need for companies to reconnect with partners and employees and get back on the business circuit has been vital to the return of events.
2) What are the criteria and pre-requisites you ask from your members to join the circle?
One of the criteria we have is that our constituents are member-owned and operated DMCs, encouraging proximity to the company holder. We are incredibly protective of the euromic brand and therefore quite strict about who we allow into the association. The process is usually by invitation, so we are the ones who screen and select the pool of candidates. With our 50 years of existence, we have an excellent understanding of the whole supply chain and who is a DMC leader in a particular country. Even our members share affiliations with other industry-related associations. When we spot a potential target, we request a due diligence process with financial information, customer and supplier testimonials. This process is then forwarded to the euromic Board, which after analysing the data submits the final decision to all members. In fact, it is the members themselves who have the final say on inbound admissions, considering the abilities, suitability and added value to the organisation.
3) What business visitors want when they travel to a destination today?
I would say the number one criteria is human connection. I think the pandemic and the webinars have done enormous damage to personal relationships. When you look at the work-from-home phenomenon, this may be one of the strongest reasons why so many organisations are losing their corporate culture. It is very difficult to communicate that culture from a distance. Coming together at live events can be an ideal opportunity to reinforce values and identity through new itineraries and programmes for people to reconnect. Not just in the boardroom, but on a coffee break where global partners and colleagues can exchange ideas and perspectives without pressure from the board. Simultaneously, we are also seeing the emergence of various exclusive activities, incentives, bleisure and workations. Another of the threats I see is that many organisations have been decimated in terms of talent and personnel and will necessarily have to recruit again. After the pandemic, it only took a few months for them to face a period of exceptional activity. For lack of a better word, the industry is pretty tired right now.
The euromic AGM guests on tour in Madrid
4) After the twists and turns that have affected the global travel industry these past three years, how are new travel trends affecting DMCs?
Demand for events, business travel and human-level connection for corporate companies is now a high priority. As far as the industry is concerned, sustainability is definitely a huge factor going forward for everyone but especially for the younger generations. We have just embarked on a great sustainability journey within euromic when we decided last year that all our members must have a sustainability certification. We were awarded by a company called Biosphere with a partnership that assigned us the role of global ambassadors in this environmental commitment. All of our members have also signed a diversity and inclusion policy, because that is also on the agenda to come. Of course, the impact of technology these days is huge with many digital developments in the way proposals are made. On the other hand, getting new blood into the industry is a challenge - many young leaders are not 100% sure they want to build a career in the events industry due to its turmoil and volatility. However, what we are seeing is a cross-generational collaboration hub with our veterans and older members, which has helped to build a younger leaders programme within euromic. It's about providing training, support and mentoring, while also highlighting the advantages of working in destination management.
5) How can this booming emergence of digital platforms such as zoom and webinars peacefully coexist with the work of its members on the ground?
When we talk about the MICE industry, it depends on which segment you are looking at. What we are already seeing is that technical or administrative meetings for governance or regulatory purposes are shifting to online. When it comes to incentive trips, product launches, scientific conferences, educational seminars, it only makes sense to engage the public at a personal and face-to-face level. When you’re looking to inspire, motivate, or connect on another level, there's no substitute for physical meetings. The two virtual general meetings we held during the two years of the pandemic could not have been more different from the last one we held in person (in Madrid) this year. We still had people zooming in and attending virtually, but the feeling in the room and the conversations we had took our work to a higher level. Virtual meetings are great, but what organisations are missing is the five minutes that happen before the meeting and the five minutes that happen after the meeting. Hybrid and webinars have their own place and are not going away, but I think nothing beats the power of human connection. However, we have to justify this, the objectives of the event must be very clear and with sustainability in mind.
6) What is the importance of CSR policies today to convince clients and advocate for destinations in such a competitive market?
Extremely important. It’s a big deal for corporate clients, but other than that, it’s also the right thing to do. One of our ethical values at euromic is to respect and consider everyone on the planet and the planet itself. The fact that we have more women with seats on the euromic Board this year is yet another stepping stone for female empowerment internally. Getting back to sustainability, unfortunately incentive trips and events by their nature are not sustainable. To put 100 of your best performers on a plane and flying them to an event on the other side of the world is not a good starting point. The industry has to change and move towards a more sustainable direction. By instance, we are very aware of the greenwashing mindset that is happening right now. That’s why we decided to partner with Biosphere, looking with them at the 17 UN SDGs in their entirety and how we can apply them to our membership. We need to be more sustainable in our everyday lives in how we operate and hire people within the supply chain we use. In this sense, one of the initiatives we have in mind is the 50 Acts of Kindness that we will present later with all our members.
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