Category Archives: Editorial

EIBTM review: the trade show of a grown-up industry


So once more, another fantastic edition of EIBTM comes to an end. I’ve attended this show for the past 5 years, as a visitor, an exhibitor, a speaker and even as staff! (last year I project managed the Innovation Zone). This year though, it was a relaxing one for me – I only had to speak at one session and attend a few meetings. Therefore, I had time to wander around, go to some educational sessions and catch up with friends and colleagues. I have many takeaways from this year’s exhibition, but if I have to choose one word to sum it up, it’s MATURITY. I’m a relatively new comer to the meetings industry, but this year I could sense, in many ways, that meeting professionals are “growing up”. Let me explain it:

1. The first example of Maturity is EIBTM itself: this year, the trade show has gone back to the basics, slashing many educational sessions and focusing on its raison d’être, facilitating business connections. If there is less education, delegates spend more time on the show floor with exhibitors. This makes sense, and even more in this day and age, where we can find so much information online (some people argue that speaker presentations will no longer exist in a few years, since it’s all available online – I don’t agree though). EIBTM has also changed its name, in 2015 it will be called IBTM World. Personally, I find it a good move, this trade show is truly a melting pot of people from all over the world! The organizers can certainly be proud: there was an 8% increase in attendance (over 15.000 visitors!). I also spoke with some exhibitors who told me that, for the first time ever, they had closed deals on the spot. That’s certainly good news for everyone involved.

Loved the hustle and bustle of the show floor!

Loved the hustle and bustle of the show floor!

2. There is much more interest in the content side of meetings. The educational programme was overwhelmingly dominated by the topic of meeting design. I myself co-presented a session on it, we had a large audience and by the level of the questions that we were asked, I can tell most were not beginners. It’s as if meeting planners (finally) realize that they create valuable events when they focus on fostering education and networking, besides booking nice hotels. Also, the FRESH dinner (the place to be if you’re into meeting design) was the busiest ever this year. By the way, all sessions were livestreamed and made available on-demand here.

The audience at our session on Meeting formats

The audience at our session on Meeting formats

And this was the stage where we presented

And this was the stage where we presented

3. Tech start ups are no longer the “new kids on the block”. Event technology companies are getting bigger, booking larger stands, and more tellingly, no longer need to educate their customers so much. Now pretty much everyone knows what an event app is, understands that technology should be used meaningfully and is not so afraid of using gadgets and the venue’s wifi. American Express Meetings & Events said that in North America, hybrid meetings are on the rise (albeit flat in EMEA). Some of the new trends in technology are ibeacons and augmented reality, but in my opinion, for now they are just fancy technologies, with no real added value for event organizers just yet.

Having fun with augmented reality at the Innovation Zone

Having fun with augmented reality at the Innovation Zone

View of the Innovation Zone

View of the stunning Innovation Zone

4. Event planners are becoming experts at using Social Media. Obviously we’re all still learning and there’s much room for improvement, however, I think we’re in high school now! If you read the latest ebook from Event Manager’s Blog, which was released during EIBTM, you’ll see much more sophisticated information and case studies on using Social Media networks at events. Therefore, we are moving from beginners to advanced users. Still, when I asked a panel of so-called “Social Media experts” about the role of bloggers, most said that they didn’t know any MICE blogger. Well, I think it’s time to look at how other industries are taking advantage of bloggers and use those strategies for event and destination marketing. By the way, some interesting data here: most of the Trip Advisor reviews are positive (the average is 4.6/5), so there is no need to be afraid of social media reviews!

Finally, thanks to the Meeting Design Institute (and all the sponsors of the Video Corner) we recorded a video that explains what The Conference Goer’s Blog is all about. You can check it out here.

Did you go to EIBTM? What was your experience of the trade show? Do you agree with my conclusion that the meeting professional has grown up? And if you read my previous blog post on Tips from a local to enjoy Barcelona, please share what your experience was!

Energizing break at the Innovation Zone by Magdalina Atanassova

Energizing break at the Innovation Zone by Magdalina Atanassova

The collaborative economy debated during Catalonia’s World Tourism Day event


The 1st of October is the World Tourism Day and to celebrate it, Catalonia’s Tourist Agency put together a memorable evening. The event started with a conference where leading industry experts discussed the hottest topics in 2 roundtables at the Fira de Barcelona’s Convention Centre. It was followed by an awards ceremony and a dinner at the magnificent Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC).

The topic of the first session was the role and impact of the new collaborative economy in the tourism industry. In many countries around the world, and in Spain in particular, there have been many debates lately around services like Airbnb, Uber or BlaBlacar. Should the government allow them to exist? And, if so, under what conditions? Everyone seemed to agree that, like it or not, collaborative economies are here to stay. I completely agree (as you may have read in a previous blog post, I’m a big fan of and regularly use Airbnb and Blablacar, both for personal and business trips). The conclusion was that, since they are here to stay, governments might as well tax their activity (currently, you only pay VAT on the fee of using the service, not on the service itself). Also, the CEO of Roommate hotels, Kike Sarasola, pointed out that businesses must outsmart these new companies. He says he’s just been listening to the needs of people and improving on Airbnb weaknesses (such as not having a 24/7 reception or a luggage locker), and he’s being very successful.

Roundtable discussions

Roundtable discussions at Fira de Barcelona’s Convention Centre

The second roundtable was about what tourism should look like in Catalonia. Do we want to keep attracting students and backpackers who come for the cheap beer and the beach? (read this article on an incident that happened recently with drunken tourists in the city). Should we look for more tourists from Russia and other emerging countries that spend most of their time shopping in Passeig de Gracia’s luxury boutiques? Currently, Barcelona is one of the top destinations in the world (both for holidays and business tourism), and its popularity seems to doesn’t have a limit. Every year the number of tourists visiting increases, to the dismay of some Barcelona inhabitants, who are fed up with all the negative consequences of attracting so many tourists.

All the speakers agreed on one thing: tourism is Catalonia’s cash cow, so this industry should be maintained. But not at all costs. I especially liked Miquel Puig’s contributions. Miquel is an economist from the University of Barcelona who claimed that if we want to keep our generous welfare state, we must increase salaries. Otherwise, everyone is paying for tourism (for example, waiters have such a low income and therefore pay such low taxes that all citizens have to pay for their healthcare costs). To put things into perspective, Miquel mentioned that in countries like Austria or Switzerland, or even France, salaries in the tourism industry are so much higher, and as a result there is more quality. Because it should be about quality, not quantity. I fully agree with him.

Maria Reig, president of Reig Capital Group, also made some interesting observations. She pointed out that Catalonia has many attractions but it is not taking full advantage of them. Ms. Reig recommended to explore highly profitable niche sectors such as medical tourism (she explained how the city of Munich, Germany, has successfully exploited its hospitals to attract tourists). She also highlighted how Catalan businesses tend to be too competitive between them. Instead, they should be more collaborative. Indeed, collaboration is the buzz word nowadays!

After the conference I went to the awards and gala dinner, where the president of Catalonia, Mr. Artur Mas, gave a speech about how encouraging are all the new initiatives taken by the industry, especially by many small businesses focused on sustainable tourism (who won most of the awards of the evening).

MNAC Entrance

MNAC Entrance

Catalan politicians at the awards ceremony

Catalan politicians at the awards ceremony

The dinner took place inside a wonderful room within the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, which is one of the main museums of Barcelona and has been adapted to host events as well. Did you know the museum hosts the largest collection of Romanesque art in the world? At night, in front of the museum there is another popular tourist attraction of  Barcelona, the Montjuic fountains. There is a fine show every evening at the top of the hour.

Dinner at MNAC's magnificent Sala Oval

Dinner at MNAC’s magnificent Sala Oval

The food served was local and traditional

The food served was local and traditional

Front view of the MNAC and the Montjuic fountains

Front view of the MNAC and the Montjuic fountains

What do you think about the collaborative economy and its impact on tourism? Do you think it should be banned or regulated?