“We are facing unprecedented times”, has been the mantra of the past months. Rightly so, with the events industry grinding to sudden halt, and only now slowly returning to a new normal. This new normal is going to be affected by more waves of the current pandemic and associated restrictions, alongside impacts of changing climate patterns and a global collapse of the economy. With many industries struggling for survival, building capacity for resilience is crucial. For associations, events, and meetings, fostering industry-wide resilience will have to pivot around the creation of a strong value proposition.
Defining our Value
What is it that events and associations bring to the table? What is it that we contribute to global and intergenerational well-being? Aside from the tremendous economic impact, which in the US alone is estimated to be 845 billion dollars just in 2016, the lasting legacy of events can improve the lives of those living in host destinations. And most importantly, the MICE industry connects industries, and brings together the brightest minds of our time.
As national recovery plans are starting to take shape around the world, we need to leverage our ability to bring together industries, and to create spaces for collaboration and innovation. We need to be reaching out to policy makers, and get a seat at the table, to ensure that the value we bring is utilised during the recovery.
The Regenerative Approach
Recovery without forethought about the long-term impacts is short-sighted at best, and detrimental to global environmental and social well-being at worst. For this reason, we need to take a regenerative approach. An approach that does not repair the old, and patch what's already broken, but reimagines the new. With the goal to rebuild a regenerative and resilient tourism and events economy that works for everyone. An industry that generates jobs and spreads prosperity inclusively and fairly. A resilient, vibrant, and flourishing industry, that grows in harmony with, and not against, nature and its boundaries. An industry that regenerates cities, people, and the nature around us.
As we educate, inspire, certify and unite people through associations, we need to advocate for a regenerative recovery. Associations can be the voice of our respective industries in this time of need, and as we start meeting again, we need to build and facilitate relationships with our host destinations, and ask ourselves how our events can deliver positive local impacts. This could be by raising awareness on social or environmental issues, creating collaborations that help solve these issues beyond an event’s duration, or generating new long-term employment. An example of this is INTECOL in New Zealand, which will raise awareness on "our understanding of wetland biodiversity and ecosystem management and broaden the awareness of the ‘wise use’ of natural resources for sustainable development” (Meet4Impact).
As associations and the events industry reinvent themselves to traverse the uncertain paths of new territory, the guiding star should be a vision for a regenerative future. One that acknowledges and celebrates the economic benefits we bring to the world, while being painfully aware that for true resilience, we need to amplify our positive impacts on societies and the environment.
Noah Joubert is a Sustainability Consultant of the Global Destination Sustainability Movement, a destination level movement that benchmarks and improves the sustainability strategy and performance of destinations, encouraging them to become more sustainable places to visit, meet in and thrive in.
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