The far south-western corner of Europe is a classic touristic destination, with nice beaches, a privileged climate, a nicely carved coastline and many activities from bird watching to golf (best golfing destination in the world in 2014 for the International Association of Golf Tour Operators). But as the representatives of the destination explained, it is important for them to be seen as a perfect place for professional events... hence this congress, hosted in one of Algarve´s gems, the 5-star cool and chic EPIC SANA Hotel which spreads over 8 hectares of green, three swimming pools, various sports facilities (we nonetheless managed to work... in its large conference centre).
The event started with a welcome cocktail-dinner (including a TV set broadcasting the PSG-Barça game... a wise decision for soccer-hungry Iberian fans), where we enjoyed the high-quality gastronomy of the SANA EPIC Hotel.
On Thursday morning we discovered an elegant green setup (ICCA colour!) for the education tracks. For starters and following the current digital obsession, Franscesco Berretini (Inesting) explained the keys of digital communication strategies. For instance, he stressed the uses of the famous AIDA model by Michael Porter (the steps of selling: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action): some online initiatives like SEA generate attention, some like social media generate interest, while email marketing can be used to generate action. And of course (but always useful to remind...) all should come from a carefully defined strategy. "I need a facebook page" is not a strategy.
Luis Callejón (Congress and Exhibition Centre of Costa del Sol) and Victor Nieto (Business Association of the Algarve) then explained how to position a traditional tourism destination as a MICE destination, stressing MICE as "the philosopher´s stone to break with the seasonality".
Passionate showman Juanjo García from Barceló Congresos explained how to use properly the ICCA database, a highly valuable tool (probably the number one reason for being a member). On this (always evolving) tool, members can see which congresses are organized where, their rotation patterns... but also the key influencers of each field (speakers, poster writers...) as well as the sponsors per sector. A true "big data" tool which gives members the opportunity to sell more -one of ICCA´s mission statements-. He also reminded of the benefits of the ICCA best marketing award and the PR kit service the association provides to its members.
Raimond Torrents from the Event Management Institute explained the keys of "neuroevents". As he said, the first thing delegates look for when getting to an event is the wifi code, which indicates the level of distraction the planner has to struggle with. See other learnings about his session on neuroevents.
An outdoor buffet lunch, the traditional group photo, and additional sessions about "doing events in traditional tourist destinations" and a relaxation exercice including 10 minutes of stretching after a long working day completed the programme. The afternoon included 2.5 hours of free time (which is increasingly common in congresses and incentives, a clear improvement in the delegates experience in our events and a key trends today).
On Friday, the association assembly took place, and ICCA´s CSR activity took the delegates to a country house with vineyard and a bottling plant, where they helped handicapped people paint the stickers which will appear on a limited edition wine collection. A heart-warming moment... and an already traditional moment in ICCA´s congresses (remember the ICCA logo planted in Azores and visible from Google Earth?).