Brussels Hosts EU Forum: Promoting Transformative Power of Meetings Industry

Sarhan Basem

Brussels (Brussels Morning) – Brussels hosts the EU Forum, spotlighting the transformative potential of the meetings industry. Attended by 180 professionals and policymakers, discussions cover sustainability, talent development, and the broader impact of events beyond tourism.

Visit Brussels in collaboration with several key organizations including JMIC (Joint Meetings Industry Council), CityDNA (City Destinations Alliance), and EEIA (European Exhibition Industry Alliance), hosted the affair EU Dialogue: Driving Positive Change In The Meetings Industry which attracted over 180 industry professionals and European policymakers from 15 different countries and EU member states.

What Topics Dominated Discussions at the EU Forum?

The conference sought to shed light on the often underestimated assistance of the meetings industry to economic growth and prosperity. With Brussels functioning as the host city, it garnered plenty of engagement from senior officials and institutional stakeholders.

The event encouraged discussions among attendees, with insights conveyed by 52 speakers. These discussions wrapped up a wide array of critical topics including sustainability initiatives, mobility, the effect of EU trade policies on business events, talent development strategies, and the significance of digital innovation within the industry.

One critical theme that emerged was the industry’s broader influence beyond tourism, emphasizing the concept of the Visitor Economy, which encloses the entire ecosystem related to hosting events. 

Why is Recognition of the Meetings Industry Essential?

Patrick Bontinck, CEO of Visit Brussels, emphasised the industry’s potential to promote diversity, equality, and sustainability, insisting for sustainable changes in operations. “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, but also towards an industry that is aware of social and environmental issues and is ready to make sustainable changes to the way it operates.”

What Challenges Does the Meetings Industry Face in Data Representation?

Talks also touched upon the sector’s challenges, including the fragmented character of data and statistics, which hampers its representation in official records. Attendees highlighted the need for clearer industry presence in official national, European, and global statistics to achieve recognition from governments and policymakers. 

According to David Boon, UFI European Chapter Chair for EEIA, it became clear “that the business events and display sector is fragmented and complex, which is reflected in a multitude of data and studies created by the sector itself and a striking lack of representation in any official statistics. To be visible to and recognised by governments and policymakers on all levels, it requires a clear sight with some basic data in official national, European and global statistics”.

What Tools Can Enhance the Competitiveness of the Meetings Industry?

Petra Stušek, President of City Destinations Alliance, highlighted the symbiotic relationship between tourism and the meetings sector. “They are essential for the visitor economy, which can satisfy the destinations’ social inclusion, cultural offering and relations, knowledge communities and local communities. It’s important to embrace the current tools at the European level like the Tourism Transition Pathway which is aligned with meeting industry challenges. We communicate many goals with the European Union, and we ought to speak with one voice while still embracing all components and displaying the diversity and relevance of our sector. Continuing this dialogue is critical to ensuring Europe’s competitiveness, resilience and sustainability.”

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Sarhan Basem is Brussels Morning's Senior Correspondent to the European Parliament. With a Bachelor's degree in English Literature, Sarhan brings a unique blend of linguistic finesse and analytical prowess to his reporting. Specializing in foreign affairs, human rights, civil liberties, and security issues, he delves deep into the intricacies of global politics to provide insightful commentary and in-depth coverage. Beyond the world of journalism, Sarhan is an avid traveler, exploring new cultures and cuisines, and enjoys unwinding with a good book or indulging in outdoor adventures whenever possible.