This feature was originally published in Latin America Meetings magazine.

André Vietor

Managing Director, Bco Congresos

These are not easy times for any destination around the globe to regain the confidence of hosting international meetings. Uncertainty prevails for all associations when it comes to deciding on future editions of congresses and their format.

These decisions used to be taken long in advance, but the current climate forces associations to shift their decision-making process to a much shorter term.

Whether to cancel, maintain the scheduled dates, postpone their conferences to another date and sometimes even consider a destination change can happen at the very last minute.

My view on how to seduce organisations to select a destination for an in-person or hybrid meeting comes down to these three key criteria: risk assessment, safety measures and flexibility.

Risk assessment  No association can afford to take risks neither related to the health of their participants nor financially.

Destinations who are smart enough to provide a risk assessment plan to associations have a greater chance to be heard and considered as they show empathy with their clients’ concerns. Solutions to minimise risks give destinations a competitive advantage over others that do only “sell.”

Furthermore, the IAPCO National PCO Association Task Force is working with 14 National PCO Associations to advocate for the safe reopening of events. IAPCO International Forum of Tourism & Development Ministers | IAPCO: The International Association of Professional Congress Organisers.

Safety measures  Besides implementing safety measures at the conference venue and given that all attendees have to have a Covid passport or have to go through mandatory daily PCR tests to attend the meeting, the difficulty lies in ensuring the safety of the participants outside the venue.

This can be achieved but is very complex since we have to get all stakeholders in the city on board to ensure a safe environment for all attendees, such as at the airport, hotels, public transport system, restaurants and bars, to name only a few.

Flexibility  Flexibility is a must when it comes to Force Majeure clauses, cancellation terms and postponement of the meeting.

The recent experience shows that flexible and collaborative destinations with cancellations or postponements gained a loyal client for the years to come. This isn’t just about the venue, but hotels and other service providers involved in the supply chain.

In most cases, we assisted associations and destination marketing organisations with all three by providing solutions and avoiding major damage in critical situations.

In this respect, I would like to mention that IAPCO Ambassadors have worked with Best Cities Global Alliance to update bidding guidelines that help associations rewrite their bid guidelines or RFP’s to ensure they include the virtual and hybrid requirements.

Download Hybrid Congress Guidelines April 2021 pdf from