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André Vietor, Viajes Iberia Congresos

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We sit down with one of the best experts in congresses in Spain: André Vietor, both for his role as head of the PCO Viajes Iberia Congresos and as president of IAPCO until mid 2008, gives us a vision of the situation and the changes affecting the congress market.

How is the market today, with the emergente of Core PCO’s and AMC’s?   
These concepts appeared in the USA. As associations compete among themselves, they have to meet the increasingly demanding needs of their members, and be more professional, which can be done intwo ways: with permanent staff or outsourcing to professional organisations: the Association Management Companies (AMC’s). In Europe, we already see associations hiring an AMC or creating a professional in-house team. One example is the European Cardiology Association, with 120 people in-house for events.

However, an association with 250 members and which organises a congress each year can not maintain a large structure. The AMC is a solution which optimises HR, as one person in an AMC can share his time among various associations. The AMC also brings an important experience and know-how.

And comparing AMC and Core PCO?

Being core PCO is like being the permanent secretary of a congress and travel with it. A core-PCO usually uses a local PCO or a DMC taking into account the fact that there can be important differences between countries, in terms of culture, tax or labour system. There is a lot of talk about the core PCO because this type of player controls the quality of the congress from one year to the next and the financial results of a congress require an important continuity and mid-term dedication. So the “plain PCO” will often convert into DMC, managing mostly the local logistics of the congress. Some AMC’s also offer PCO services, while others focus on managing the association, subcontracting the congress organisation to a local PCO. There is no absolute rule.

How do PCO’s bill their services and how will they, in the future?

There are many models. In my opinion, the fairest way to charge for a techical secretary is an amount per delegate, which is representative of the work of the PCO and gives i tan incentive to increase attendance.

Cientific secretary and “abstract handling” usually are charged differently. Finally, the management of the exhibition area and sponsors can be paid with a percentage of sales or a fee per sqm sold.One growing solution is to share income or profit, but this only Works in case of a deep implication of the PCO in the congress management and a control of the expenses. In other cases, the PCO guarantees an income to the association and if profit is higher than expected, the surplus is shared.

What about commission?
Most clients know PCO’s get a commission. Some clients ask for this comisión to be shared with them. This is more and more frequent, especially internationally. I don’t have a problema with that as long as fees are correct, which is often not the case.Many core PCO’s and AMCs talk about a “open-book policy”: all expenses are “net” and any commission goes to the association. And they, as representants of the association, get their management fees.

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