Some connections have a bigger impact than others, as the experience of one attendee at Connection 2017, held at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, shows. Lynda Lithgow was a young professional in the meetings business in the 1980s when she went to an event in Austria organized by the local destination management company, IMS Vienna. The meeting, held in a castle with entertainment from the Vienna Boys Choir, was magical, and Michael Schillinger, founder and CEO of IMS, served as a career inspiration for her over the last 30+ years. So when she saw his name on the list for a networking session at Connection 2017, she couldn’t resist signing up to tell him the impact the experience had had on her. No surprise, given the attention to detail Schillinger brought to the event, he remembered it. Lithgow, now senior project manager for global event management for Johnson & Johnson, says, “to see him at work, and then experience the event, was an incredible opportunity.”
Many more connections were made at the event, put on by Global DMC Partners, an alliance of destination management companies devoted to helping meeting planners create events that are still memorable 30 years later. The event ran from August 24-27, providing one on one sessions between meeting planners and destination management companies, and educational seminars on topics such as negotiating with hotels and sharing creative ideas.
For meeting planners, it was an “ask anything” opportunity to sit down with a professional from more than 50 destinations. Linda Wong, managing director of Destination Asia, said that the most frequently asked question planners had was, “How bad is the pollution, really?” The answer: If you don’t visit in the winter, it is not bad at all.
Bernard O’Reilly, chairman and CEO of JOR Ireland DMC, beguiled his visitors with two simple words: domestic arrivals. Sure, O’Reilly had information on the castles and the golf and the famous Irish hospitality, but many planners were stunned to find out that travelers on flights back to the U.S. from Shannon or Dublin can skip the lines at immigration. That might just be more appealing than a distillery tour.
One country that is now in the sights of this year’s attendees, is next year’s destination: Poland. Catherine Chaulet, Global DMC Partners president, called Warsaw, next year’s host city, a “hidden gem.” She says, “The biggest challenges for planners are budget constraints and compliance issues. I would say in Poland you have everything Europe has to offer at a great price. This is especially important for pharma meetings, where you need to find a great restaurant that can give you a menu for 60 euros per person.” Chaulet also chose Warsaw because it is unexpected and, for meetings, almost undiscovered. She says, “If planners are nervous about bringing an event to Europe and they see Warsaw can provide a flawless experience, they will see how manageable other destinations can be.”