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Top 10 Events That Affected the Meetings Industry in 2010

Top 10 Events
This list started with my jotting a few events that stood out for me as industry-altering.  Then I reached out to colleagues and clients through LinkedIN.  The economy was at the top of everyone’s list but beyond the obvious, what other issues stood out?

The 40+ responses (thank you all!) I received reflect widely diverse views on events and the shifts in the way we may be doing business in the future.  Here is a summary of the most notable:
  1. Spotlight on Vancouver: Following Vancouver’s Winter  Olympics event producers around the world know it’s OK to be human after show maestro David Atkins redeemed his opener’s failed cauldron lighting with a funny mime routine during the closing ceremony.  In July, the city also hosted MPI’s World Education Congress, dazzling attendees with natural beauty and expert logistics.  Will the “Olympic Effect” continue to shine on Vancouver in 2011?
  2. Volcano Ash: In April, an enormous cloud from the Eyjafjallaj√∂kull volcano in Iceland caused the worst travel disruptions since 9/11, stranding travelers on six continents.  Meeting and travel professionals were once again reminded of the need for contingency planning.
  3. Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: Days after the volcanic eruption, BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, sending oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.  Groups steered clear of Gulf state destinations, prompting tourism promoters and businesses to apply for financial compensation.  Will BP’s experience prompt more to seek corporate reparations from environmental disasters?
  4. Nashville Floods: Overshadowed by the oil spill, torrential rains and floods devastated Nashville.  The Opryland Hotel was under 10+ feet of water, forcing many to relocate their conventions.  At least one planner reported to Greenfield using a virtual tour because she had no time to fly to the new convention hotel.  Could this be the start of a new way to conduct site inspections? The Opryland re-opened in November.
  5. Meeting Boycotts: Headaches and relocations continued as the meetings industry became a political pawn with U.S. Congressman Raul Grijalva urging groups not to schedule conventions or conferences in Arizona to protest the state’s new immigration bill, S.B. 1070.   While more controversial aspects of the legislation were struck down in July, one study pegged the damage at $141 million in lost revenue.
  6. The Rise of Mega Hybrid Meetings: MPI’s 2010-2011 Chairman Eric Rozenberg nominated SAP’s SapphireNow as an industry-shifting event which simultaneously connected 5,500 people in Frankfurt (Germany), 10,500 people in Orlando and 35,000 people on the web.  While this is not the only larger-scale live-virtual event that took place in 2010, few would deny that this new type of meeting is a game changer.  Will hybrid events help mitigate natural and man-made disruptions?
  7. G8 & G20 Meetings: Canada was abuzz with international attention again in late June as Huntsville, ON and Toronto, ON respectively hosted the G8 and the G20 gatherings. Combined these events represented the most expensive security operation in Canadian history, reported at almost $1 billion.  How will this demand on public coffers sour taxpayers’ views of international meetings?
  8. Mexico’s Annus Horribilis: Mexico started 2010 under the spectre of the H1N1 flu pandemic, and continued to struggle with gang violence.  While drug wars centred mostly in non-touristic areas, the country’s biggest industry staggered under the bad publicity.  Will our Mexican friends finally be able to focus on more positive developments, such as the United Nations Climate Change Conference which just concluded with an accord in Cancun?
  9. European Financial Crisis: First Greece, then Ireland and now perhaps Spain.  Europe is struggling under colossal debt.  In 2010 the Euro has plunged, making European travel and meetings more attractive.  Will North American incentive planners take advantage or shy away from the potential political unrest?
  10. TSA Security Crackdown: Just in time for holiday travel, the Transportation Security Administration stepped up inspections, prompting an outcry from travelers, civil libertarians and travel industry officials.   Will this added intrusion fade as just one more aggravation to put up with for the sake of getting to one’s destination?  Will some meetings stay away from U.S. destinations to spare attendees the humiliation?
Some contributions did not make it in to our top 10 either because they were local events or could be considered trends rather than specific events.  We’ll post those next week.

What were your top events in 2010?   Please share them with us.

In closing, let’s hope for more positive developments to make their way into our list next year.  Until then, may you enjoy peace, health and prosperity!