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“Catalonia is working to transmit guarantees and emotional confidence to the organisers and attendees of meetings”


A conversation with Oscar García, founding partner of Forum Business Travel, CEO and co-founder of MICE in the Cloud:  

– In this current turning-point scenario of corporate travel, the digitalisation of aspects of professional meetings and changes in travel and transportation habits, what are the priority rules when it comes to choosing where and how to hold a business meeting or convention, incentive trip and congress?

The situation has changed a lot and hybrid events are here to stay, so when it comes to organising any type of event you have to take into account the health guarantees of the city, the venue and above all its technological capacity to ensure that everything works. There will be more attendees connected virtually than face-to-face in the medium term. In any case, the connectivity of destinations will mark the viability of choosing them as a venue. Airlines have already announced reductions in flight capacities and attendees worldwide and it is predicted that travelling to certain destinations will be more complicated and expensive.

– When is the predicted return to pre-COVID normality in the sector and which destinations will again be those attracting the greatest demand from business travellers?

No one knows, but from my point of view, as well as what I am reading internationally, we will return to a certain normality from April or May. The first destinations to recover certain activity will be domestic and European destinations will then be gradually incorporated. I think it is crucial to unify travel conditions at least in Europe. Each country and even each region is currently establishing its own protocols and this situation makes the work of company travel managers and their travel agencies extremely difficult.

– The strength of congress and business tourism is one of the distinctive features of Catalonia in general and particularly Barcelona and its surroundings. Is this leadership of the main ICCA ranked cities threatened or should we not fear drastic changes?

I do not expect drastic changes when sector activity is gradually resumed, because the key is guaranteeing health and above all obtaining the emotional confidence of organisations and attendees. Catalonia and Barcelona are continuing to work on transmitting these guarantees and being able to resume activity as soon as possible.

– The organisers of IBTM have extended the term of the largest event and tourism meeting fair with Fira de Barcelona until 2024. It has been held here since 2004. How do you think this event contributes to improving the network of service providers, event planners, DMCs and the range of choices in general that exists in Catalonia to continue making this destination competitive?

This type of event is more than ever crucial for understanding how the sector is evolving and the new opportunities that are emerging, as well as putting the MICE ecosystem in touch to generate business for everybody. IBTM in Barcelona has been an international benchmark and will be so again in 2021. Moreover, it is a wonderful opportunity for Catalonia and Barcelona to showcase the great work done throughout this difficult period.

– Let’s talk about future trends. Are we heading for business meeting tourism with less crowded events and with more room for mini events? Will travel managers plan more with the logic of reducing costs and less corporate travel?

We will indeed see shorter hybrid events with multiple locations and fewer attendees. The technology will be applied at two levels, one more production-based and logistical and another more strategic in terms of engaging with attendees. Much work in recent years has been done on designing events from a more strategic and less logistical perspective and this will continue. The complexity of hybrid events involves attracting and maintaining the attention of two very different types of audiences (face-to-face and virtual), both of which are important.

– Will destinations that take greater care of the sustainability of events prevail? Will CSR set the priorities of companies when it comes to planning a business meeting or incentive travel?

Sustainability and legacy will be key when choosing a destination in the coming years. Companies work by objective and quantifiable indicators and event destinations and organisers have to be able to quantify the impact of their actions so that client companies can incorporate these into the rest of their actions.


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