The eighth edition of Meetings Week Poland (MWP) was dedicated to the state of the meetings and events industry in the new reality, the trends that might have a considerable impact on the market’s shape, safety, as well as research painting a picture of the industry. The event adopted a hybrid formula and was held simultaneously in five Polish cities and a virtual conference centre. Its programme featured lectures and panel discussions involving Polish and international speakers, launches and an awards ceremony.
This year’s edition of Meetings Week Poland delivered two days (16–17 September) of industry meetings and talks staged both online and in venues in five Polish cities (Katowice, Kraków, Lublin, Poznań and Warsaw). On the first day of the event, each of the venues hosted local attendants and active participants of panel discussions. A few dozen speakers, representatives of all sectors of the meetings market, were involved.
As usual, Meetings Week Poland was kicked off by the Poland Meetings Destination conference. Andrzej Gut-Mostowy, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Development in charge of tourism, and Arkadiusz Opoń, Vice President of Polish Tourism Organisation, officially opened the conference and together with it the discussed MWP edition. Both speakers emphasised the importance of the travel and meetings industries for national economy and the seriousness of challenges faced by entrepreneurs representing the sector due to the pandemic outbreak and the resulting economy freeze. During the same session Teresa Buczak of Polish Tourism Organisation for the first time presented data from the latest Poland Meetings and Events Industry Report. Its 2020 edition covers 24,500 meetings and events staged in Poland in 2019, an increase of more than 2,000 compared with the year before.
Participants of panel discussions staged as part of Poland Meetings Destination tackled, i.a. topics related to the commercial and educational potential of hybrid and online forms of conferences and congresses and the need to follow safety and hygiene standards due to the SARS-CoV-2 threat. The agenda also covered tools of stimulating the meetings market available for local governments and government agencies. The issue of a local tourist tax was once again brought up, with Minister Gut-Mostowy declaring that work on its introduction will be resumed this year.
A session arranged by Polish Conference and Congress Association and Poland Convention Bureau of Polish Tourism Organisation was focused on a thesis claiming that sustainable development is the foundation of the meetings industry’s recovery. The principle of sustainable development was also discussed by international experts Claudia van’t Hullenaar (Global Destination Sustainable Movement) and Lesley Williams (BestCities Global Alliance). According to Marriott Natureworks’ January 2020 research, 97% of event planners have been implementing sustainable development practices into their events and 95% perceive sustainable development as important or very important. In Barcelona already now 93% of travel industry companies declare their involvement in post-COVID sustainable development.
The discussion panel participants were sharing examples of innovative solutions introduced in the field of planning business events both in Poland and abroad to gain a competitive edge in a dynamically changing reality dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The meeting concluded with an agreement that the ability to adapt to new conditions is crucial in the challenging times we now all find ourselves in.
The “B2B Exhibitions – Back to Business” session developed and hosted by Polish Chamber of Exhibition Industry was dedicated to the multithreading function of exhibitions, especially in a period of economic recovery. Its participants emphasised that exhibitions play a key role in reviving business, companies and relations following a slowdown caused by the pandemic, facilitate the domestic and international market comeback of Polish companies, constitute a driving force behind the growth of cities, regions and Poland’s national economy, as well as accelerate economic development on multiple levels. The global exhibition industry generates EUR 167 billion in direct GDP, including EUR 92 billion in Europe. European governments are well aware that exhibitions are crucial for national economies. In addition, they understand that exhibitions getting companies back on their feet will help the whole economy recover. Nick Dugdale Moore, Regional Manager for Europe at UFI - The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, presented the international outlook.
The first day of MWP ended with the final concert of this year’s Cyber Wreaths - 2020 Days of Music dedicated to Polish singer Andrzej Zaucha, with participants appearing on stage in the Avatarland™ virtual conference centre made available by Kraków Festival Office and Play Kraków VOD platform.
Activities planned for day two of Meetings Week Poland took place in Warsaw and were broadcast online. A session dedicated to the role played by trade associations in the meetings and events industry consisted of two panel discussions. The one arranged by Event Industry Association dealt with the prospects of event planning and the state of the event sector. The discussion hosted by Association of Incentive Travel Organisers and SITE Poland centred on the expectations for business and incentive travel, posing a question about the post-COVID future as envisaged by incentive travel agencies, airlines and business hotels. Presenting the market situation, supply-related challenges and opportunities for the industry’s revival, the panel’s speakers concluded that thorough and honest communication on the pandemic and safety is required on three levels: mass media, government administration and - on the part of the industry - travel organisers, venues and airlines. In this context, both panel speakers and MWP attendees recognized that is crucial to publicise successfully staged events. As a result, the session marked the inauguration of the #WeMeetAgain project.
To restore supply in the meetings market, the customers have to feel safe at every stage of an implemented project. Airlines were acknowledged as the most important link in the chain of the business and incentive travel industry’s relaunch. It is inevitable to adapt to operating in the new “COVID” reality and stage trips in the present-day conditions. Nevertheless, face-to-face meetings continue to be crucial for building teams, relations, a sense of community and motivation among employees and partners, especially in demanding times. A revival of the industry will be based on consistent and well-founded administrative decisions, regulations and sanitary guidelines that will not act as a business obstacle, but rather build trust and a feeling of safety.
A session hosted by MPI Poland Chapter was entirely dedicated to safety. Crowd management expert Paul Foster’s special guest speech drew special attention to the new safety regulations in event planning. Invited speakers also discussed the issues of safety and security from various perspectives - law, cybersecurity, information and data (presentation of the Poland Events Impact report), onsite safety during teambuilding events combined with CSR operations (summary of the Challenge for GOPR project). In his presentation of Poland Events Impact Krzysztof Celuch emphasised that the organisation of meetings and events in 2019 generated approx. 1.5% of GDP and its economic contribution oscillated around PLN 35 billion.
The final event of Meetings Week Poland, the Vistula Compasses gala honoured laureates of the first edition of a competition distinguishing top graduates of Vistula School of Hospitality in Warsaw - Michał Maziarczyk (Director of Sales Poland & Baltic States, Liberty International Tourism Group) and Adriana Rogalska (Director, Natura Mazur Resort & Conference) in the manager category, Diana Jabłońska (co-owner and Managing Director, Dan-Kart) in the entrepreneur category. The gala also acted as an opportunity to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the “2B” Business Tourism Scientific Circle and a summary of Meetings Week Poland 2020.
MWP 2020 was staged in Warsaw (FHouse Warsaw, Novotel Centrum Warszawa), Kraków (ICE Kraków Congress Centre), Katowice (International Congress Centre, Spodek), Poznań (MTP Poznań Congress Center), Lublin (Lublin Conference Centre) and online in the Avatarland™ Virtual Exhibition-Conference Centre. All of these locations were combined by Brill AV Media to provide a single live experience.
This year’s edition of Meetings Week Poland was held under the honorary patronage of the Ministry of Development and President of Polish Tourism Organisation. The event was also supported by its strategic partner, local government of the Małopolskie voivodeship.
MWP was organised by: Polish Conference and Congress Association, MPI Poland Chapter, Event Industry Association, Association of Incentive Travel Organisers, SITE Poland, Polish Chamber of Exhibition Industry, Poland Convention Bureau of Polish Tourism Organisation, Vistula School of Hospitality in Warsaw, The Warsaw Voice, MeetingPlanner.pl and Warsaw Tourism Organisation.
Foto: MWP & Think MICE