Industry events

Convention Bureau Karlsruhe & Region ‘Stammtisch’: strengthening and growing regional MICE business  

On 4 September 2018, I attended the 55th Stammtisch of the Convention Bureau Karlsruhe and the Region. This event took place at the Hotel Restaurant Steuermann in Karlsruhe and welcomed regional partners for informal networking. A regular networking event, termed the German ‘Stammtisch’, has established itself in Karlsruhe and the region over recent years to become the main meeting point for all regional partners who work directly and indirectly in the MICE industry. 

These meet-ups take place every two months at a different location and over dinner, partners can exchange their experience and ideas, network and strengthen relationships. These events, as a result, foster regional MICE offerings.  

Over-tourism and the MICE industry – looking for solutions 

The term over-tourism came to global attention slightly over two years ago and has since continued to make the headlines. The phenomenon is not new – we have been discussing the negative impacts of mass tourism in recent years but using different terminology. The name over-tourism was coined by the founder of the Skift publication, Rafat Ali, and is self-explanatory as well as alarming in its nature. Hence, from the very beginning, it received significant press attention and is now used by tourism professionals all around the world, looking for ways to solve the problems associated with it. 

The current state of over-tourism globally 

According to the McKinsey report ‘Coping with success: Managing overcrowding in tourism destinations’, there are ten countries that account for almost two-thirds of all arrivals internationally. The European countries on that list are France, Spain and Italy. France is the most visited country in the world. The problem is not the large amount of tourists who are visiting the county, but rather the uneven spread of tourists and their concentration in particular areas, and there is therefore significant urgency to solve this problem. 

Many articles have been written about over-tourism. I read them with great interest to understand how destinations are coping with the high influx of tourists, what measures are being taken, how it affects the local population and what else can event and tourism professionals do to reduce its negative impact. 

To solve the problem, we need an integrated approach that involves all stakeholders. The recent UNWTO report ‘Overtourism? Understanding and Managing Urban Tourism Growth Beyond Perceptions’ suggested that ‘Tourism congestion needs to be addressed through cooperation: tourism and non-tourism administrations plus private sector, plus communities plus tourists.’

I agree with the suggestion that more companies within the private sector need to get on board to combat over-tourism, and sell products and services which help spread the tourism flow to less crowded areas and off the high season. Additionally, private travellers need to take more educated decisions and understand the pros and cons of visiting crowded locations. 

The report went on to list 11 strategies to manage visitor flows in urban destinations. These approaches include focusing on hosting events in less visited parts of the city, promoting events and experiences off peak seasons, promoting new itineraries highlighting hidden attractions, reviewing regulations such as opening times and capacity to improve tourist flow at peak times, analysing current visitor segmentation and placing a focus on attracting low-impact target audiences, engaging local communities in developing local products and creating city experiences that benefit both travellers and locals, improving local infrastructure, engaging with local stakeholders, creating awareness and educating visitors. Such strategies will require monitoring with data. You can find the full list of strategies and further examples here.  

Delivering multilingual content and engaging multilingual audiences at events

When planning events, do you take into consideration the languages that your attendees speak? When you host events in English, do you consider the possibility that attendees may not be native speakers? English is spoken by many people, but do we all speak it equally? We travel and conduct business internationally, but to what extent do we pay attention to the language proficiency of our delegates, and even trying to accommodate for a second or third language? 

Deciding to explore this topic further, I hosted the #eventprofstalk Twitter chat. We discussed how to deliver multilingual content and engage multilingual audiences at events. 

Determining the language(s) of your event

First things first, before deciding whether there is a need for multilingual content, we have to determine who our audience is. How can that be done? Either by asking our audience during the registration process or taking a decision based on where our event takes place. If it is held in Germany for example, and even being an international event, it is fair to expect that a high percentage of the audience will speak German. Johnny Martinez, Business Development Manager at Shocklogic, suggested that “Location obviously plays a big part. Especially at international events, you may need to accommodate for English speakers (the global language) and the local language”. If you want to go the extra mile, create a bilingual website and registration forms. 

Influencer marketing: the biggest marketing shift of the decade 

In June, I attended the leading digital economy business festival, CEBIT, in Hannover. One of my favourite sessions was “Influencer marketing: the biggest marketing shift of the decade”. The expert panel gave in-depth insights, supported by good examples, drawing on their own experiences. Recently, I decided to watch it again, and at the same time thought I would recap the session for you as well. So here we go. 

The session was moderated by Jan Homann, founder and CEO at blogfoster. Speakers included Daniel Pannrucker, managing director at The Story Lab, Dr. Peter Opdemom, managing director at congstar GmbH, and Hans Piechatzek, managing director at move elevator GmbH, and vice president of the German Marketing Association. 

The panel began by addressing the state of influencer marketing in Germany, using the growing interest among members of the German Marketing Association in this topic as an example. According to Piechatzek, members have noticed that consumers are shifting their attention from print to digital, with consumers under 20 years old spending (on average) three hours per day on social media. As a result, marketing professionals who want to reach their target audience—those who spend so much time on social media—need to explore new ways of reaching this audience. 

Companies, big and small, feel they must do something about this new shift to online, however, they do not know how. There is a high level of uncertainty among the smaller players, and these small to medium-size companies, regional and local (as opposed to multinationals) are still exploring the best methods of implementation. This creates more questions than answers. 

Leader spotlight – John Low, Senior Lecturer, Temasek Tourism Academy

In October 2016 I had the great honour of presenting a lecture to students from the Temasek Tourism Academy, Temasek Polytechnic, Singapore. The students were on a study trip to London, and I was invited to share my experiences about how I started in the events industry, and about how I established my MICE blog in 2011 while studying the BA in International Management course at Regent’s University. As a former student, I recognise the value of formal education in this sector, and I am always willing to share my experience with aspiring fellow students—the future generation of industry professionals. 

As a result of this speaking engagement I met John Low, a senior lecturer at Tamasek Tourism Academy. We still keep in touch, exchanging knowledge and experiences. I admire his passion and initiative, offering his students the opportunity to learn about the global MICE industry beyond Singapore. International experience is so highly valued by future employers. 

The industry continues to hotly debate whether a formal events education is needed, or does industry experience alone, with a “can-do” attitude, provide all we need? There is one aspect missing in this debate—there is more to it than getting a degree and simply setting off to work. Instead, it should be considered a life-long learning opportunity, utilising appropriate tools and resources for both personal and career development, maintaining currency in the competitive business environment. But how can this be achieved?