But I must also admit that partly they didn’t. None of us, in any country, has succeeded in getting the attention of governments. The same goes for tourism, which in politicians’ statements has become nothing more than the last sentence of speeches all focused on something else: „and then there is tourism“, they cut it short.
None of us was able to explain how the largest industry in the world (i.e. tourism) and its derivatives, including the events and meetings industry, contain everything else. If tourism is stopped, construction sites are stopped as well (cruises do not depart), aircrafts are no longer built (people don’t fly any more), cars and buses get left behind because no one travels, even artisan production comes to a pause because tourist expense ceases, and in many countries quality productions stop as well, such as food, wine, high-end products. Also fashion gets blocked because its dedicated tourism has become a fundamental branch of the business in the last twenty years.
I believe that due to their working together the associations have lost touch of local strengths that would have instead attracted the attention of governments. Governments themselves would have done their best to protect companies, manufacturing workshops, crafts, etc.
An enormous gap came up, preventing politicians from understanding who we are and why we would have deserved true comprehension and help. Our associations proved too distant from the local needs of their members. Let alone where there were no Chapters and no reference communities!
To say it all, each association turned victim of its own interests, tending not to look beyond itself, and thus showing not reliable when it gets in touch with a governor.
In short, we have entered into a vicious circle: international associations gave us many tools (research, training, networking) but never worked on their territories and therefore compromised the connection with governments. That’s too bad, because at least in the EU this link could have been so easy to get: our 27 countries are already united and one efficient association could easily represent us all. When the pandemic began, the Joint Meeting Industry Council tried to take measures so that everyone could work with their own governments, but it was too late. For dozens of years there had been no politics-driven attitude and it had made us inconsistent, voiceless. That’s where we failed. And local associations are guilty too, having not understood that a global strategy could have risen up even their national positions.
Talking with colleagues from all over the world, I verified that this is a very common problem. Initiatives like flash mobs, red alerts and the #wemakeevents hashtag arose randomly, without coordination and just accordingly with each local culture, thus losing their effectiveness. A few colleagues pointed out that, unlike other industries, ours was not even mentioned.
Being part of international associations is actually a great value. It helps both mentally and morally. But how much did we learn from this? What will we do when we start again? Have we finally understood that the work of so many years has led us only halfway, and reaching the middle but not the goal is just as if nothing had been done? Annamaria Ruffini
Annamaria Ruffini is SITE Master Motivator Award for holding "the highest standard of excellence in creating or executing motivational events". She served as SITE Italy President, International Board of Directors of SITE 2013-2019 and SITE Global President in 2018. Annamaria has been recognized among the 25 Most Influential People in the incentive industry and she is the only professional who has addressed the issue of incentive travel in Italy to a parliament. For her outstanding contribution to the Italian tourism she received the Global Award of the World Travel Market and the "Green tourism national award" for her hands-on manual "Ecoeventi". www.eventsinout.com