3 MICE trends at IMEX 2023

Last week, much of the global meeting and incentive industry came together in Frankfurt. 1 to 1 meetings, panels, forums, and dinners exposed the hot topics in the MICE industry. There appeared to be 3 recurring themes that were the topic of conversation.

There are only a few opportunities each year to really get the barometer on MICE industry trends and IMEX is one of them. Candid conversations in the forums are followed by dropped-guards at the social events – IMEX really does lay the industry trends bare and there were 3 really noteworthy themes.

Going greener

Already the present and future of north European travel, Eurostar were present to publicise their merger with Thalys, the French-Belgium carrier. The merger is set to simplify and unify ticketing on business routes from London to many additional destinations. With a completion date ‘later this year’ this should hopefully boost the attractiveness of this incredible transport system.

For those event planners looking to meet corporate social responsibility and environmental, social, and corporate governance compliance, Eurostar is already streets-ahead of the air travel alternatives and has a 2030 goal of carbon neutrality. With the accelerating growth in renewable power in the grids of the UK and northern Europe, this date could potentially be revised downward.

A forum discussion also took place with panellists who had taken Eurostar from London to Frankfurt. Their experiences reinforced the fact that the journey was not only more environmentally sustainable, but also a far more pleasurable and meaningful experience, with dining, activities, and meetings, all facilitated made possible by the Eurostar experience.

We’re only human … or genie

Artificial intelligence seemed to be on everyone’s lips (or brain implants). There was a mixture of trepidation and sense of opportunity about the potential impacts of AI on the meetings industry. The likelihood is that the impacts of AI will fall somewhere between the 2 reactions. AI has the potential to reduce research time greatly, leading to cost savings and competitive advantage for the adopters of AI.

For those resistant to embracing AI, the outcomes are likely to be markedly different. It is fair to infer from current trends, 2 main assumptions. Firstly, that the AI genie isn’t going back in the bottle, it represents a technological advance and there is little historic precedent to suggest that AI won't be a key part of all sectors in the near term, whether regulated or unregulated.

The second aspect is that human relations are non-substitutable, we aren’t items in a shopping trolley that be exchanged for alternatives, and that includes an algorithm. AI may well help narrow a search for a suitable venue, but the idea that contracts will be signed purely based on a cost-saving, site-inspection-avoiding technology is fanciful.

From furlough to feeding frenzy

The third trending topic was HR related – how we nurture the next generation of talent. This HR focus rather assumes that the consensus at IMEX is that we won't be replaced by algorithms - in the near term at least.

This topic has had some traction over a few years now and certainly post-covid. Discussion in the IMEX Director’s Forum included experiences of staff departing promising roles after just a few years, and with it all that valuable experience.

This outcome is the stuff of HR manager nightmares. But there is another way of looking at this. Unless you are an incarnation of David Brent, then the chances are this increasing rate of turnover is a feature of the wider industry, maybe industries. The glass half-full approach would be to recognise that the market contains candidates with this same drive and experience, just waiting to be hired.

Sustainability, touched on above with the merger of Eurostar and Thalys, was an ever-present topic at IMEX 2023, but as the topic matures, it seems more embedded in thinking than previously. Proclamations tended to be more limited to 1-on-1’s than stage signage – slightly (and I mean slightly) less brazen claims could be seen this year. That, or maybe I was looking in the wrong places. Speaking of the wrong places, our Nordic neighbours are truly engaging people and were a joy to meet and then socialise with. Maybe it’s the tilt of the earth at this time of the year – but they just don’t sleep. Be warned!

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