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by Padraic Gilligan, Vice President, Industry Relations MCI and Vice President, Ovation Global DMC

On Saturday I leave for Los Angeles where I’ll be attending – and blogging from – the annual conference of FICP, the Financial and Insurance Corporate Planners Association. This will be my 7th FICP conference and I am looking forward to an amazing event with top education, great networking and peerless showcasing of a destination. Before I go there are some loose ends to tie up …

The Value of Live Events

The magic of social media brought me back in contact with Paul Butler, a student from my teaching days back in the 80s. Besides providing me with some great new musical leads (I’m loving the Robert Glaspar album!) he also provided some interesting commentary from the “real world” around the value of conferences and live events.

Paul is a social scientist and works for Nexus, a non -for-profit research co-operative working with local communities and issue based organisations. He clearly sees the compelling reasons for attending conferences:

… attending conferences [is for] … enhanced learning, sharing ideas, networking, creating new links, planning new initiatives, making sparks happen, innovating …and in the best of worlds, advocating and aiming to influence policies”

He highlights how difficult it can be to justify attendance, particularly in the non-for-profit sector where inevitably there’s a heighten sense of accountability:

“The challenge … is demonstrating … that such outcomes have occurred”

It’s clear that our industry still has much to do around separating the features of live events (“we stayed at a lovely hotel”, “We had nice food”) from the indisputable benefits of the live interaction (“We made important connections”, “We learned new things”).

Expedia’s “Local Expert Hub” – Challenge for DMCs?

Expedia’s new suite of on-line products branded as “Local Expert Hub” poses a crucial challenge to the DMC value proposition. The topic has attracted good discussion and commentary on both the Site and the ADMEI Linkedin Groups but, the more I think about it, the more I see this as fundamentally game-changing. The Expedia sites will allow ALL suppliers and products, no matter how small or esoteric, to be visible by our clients thereby, potentially, eliminating one more element of the present DMC value proposition – the sourcing of niche and unusual activities in a destination. It will also, inevitably, cause major margin erosion as savvy clients will benchmark our rates against what’s available on-line and then seek to limit and control the DMC mark ups. This will impact particularly  intermediaries and agency business.

So what should we do? I believe we need to accelerate our evolution from destination managers to destination marketeers, strategists and consultants and move our pricing and cost models finally away from commissions, line item mark ups etc to the models utilised by professional service firms. Some DMCs have done this already – let’s hear from you guys on the outcomes?

The Gathering

The Irish government has correctly identified tourism as a major economic driver and, despite a crushing austerity programme of swashbuckling cuts in public spending, has increased investment in this sector against hopeful expectations of quick wins. Tourism Ireland, the State Agency tasked with achieving ambitious visitor numbers, then launched The Gathering, an innovative marketing campaign aimed in particular at the Irish diaspora (there are 8 times more “Irish” around the world than currently live on the island of Ireland) and calling them back to Ireland in 2013, to gather, assemble, convene etc

Unfortunately Gabriel Byrne, one of our most successful actor-exports (The Usual Suspects, Miller’s Crossing and now starring in HBO’s In Treatment) made some statements in a radio broadcast from New York City that caused The Gathering to be portrayed in a negative light. These comments were somewhat counter-balanced by a wholeheartedly positive reaction from another great Irish export, Sir Terry Wogan (of the BBC) but, undoubtedly, some damage has been done.

In tying up loose ends, the theme of this blog, I want to state categorically and unambiguously that The Gathering is a wonderful initiative deserving of all our full support. It provides the perfect theme and context for any ex-pat CEO or business leader in America, Argentina, Armenia or Algeria to consider “gathering” her organisation in Europe’s most exciting destination. So Kathleen, Maureen, Fergal or Tom …i f you’re reading this, call me!

Words with Friends

I received nice feedback from my post about playing on-line scrabble (Words with Friends) with meetings industry personalities like Rhonda Marko, Joan Eisenstodt and Andrea Michaels. Those battles rage on, daily, ebbing and flowing all the time, a constant dynamic of nip and tuck. However, the posting also led me to a new opponent whose addiction to the game is only exceeded by the brilliance of his play, the two qualities rendered all the more implausible by the fact that Jurriaen Sleijster is Dutch and not a native speaker of English. Jurriaen is a dear colleague and friend with more talents than a Gospel parable including an encyclopedic knowledge of euro pop from the early 80s. His induction into the “Words with Friends” world is both recent and all-consuming. Jurriaen is one of the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse that leads MCI. He plays “words” like a corporate behemoth – with ruthless decisiveness, steely determination and 20:20 strategic vision. He’s also fearless, like a child on an iphone, trying and succeeding with impossible letter combinations that rack up big scores. I guess the game in all its facets nourishes a pretty voracious intellectual appetite. I’m just sorry that I accepted to be an opponent in the first place.

Padraic Gilligan is Vice President, Industry Relations at MCI and Vice President of Ovation Global DMC, MCI destination services division. 



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