Jul 23

Interview with Rob Davidson

Rob Davidson is a Senior Lecturer in Events Management at the University of Greenwich in London, where he works in the London Centre for Events Management, within the Business School. His main areas of expertise are conferences and business events, and over the last ten years he has written widely on these themes. His latest book, co-written with Tony Rogers, is Marketing Destinations and Venues for Conferences, Conventions and Business Events. In addition, he regularly writes articles for the professional business tourism press, including Conference News. Rob also runs his own consultancy business, and has carried out research for a number of major conference organizations in the UK and overseas.

He is regularly invited to speak at international conferences on themes linked to business tourism. Since 2002, Rob has been employed on a consultancy basis as Industry Analyst by Reed Travel Exhibitions, for whom he carries out ongoing research. At EIBTM in Barcelona each year, he launches his annual report on trends in the meetings and events industry worldwide. For the past 5 years, he has been included in Conference & Incentive Travel magazine’s ‘Power 50’ – the 50 most influential people in the UK conference industry. In 2009, Rob was awarded a medal by the government of Poland, in recognition of his outstanding services to polish tourism.

Rob Davinson


1- As expert in the Tourism and Mice Sector for more than 20 years and professor at Greenwich University, what is your perception about the future of Incentive Travel?

In the long-term, I’m very positive about Incentive Travel’s future. Human beings are sociable animals and it is built into our DNA to enjoy the company of like-minded people – especially when the event is a trip given as a reward for some achievement. That satisfies the need for self-esteem and recognition that is deeply ingrained in all of us. Of course, the short-term future of Incentive Travel will be shaped by events in the global economy, and many of those are far from positive at the moment.

2.- Do you believe that technology will substitute meetings in the future and consequently the flow of business travelers will decrease and also having their own experiences at the destination?

I believe very strongly that a certain category of meetings will increasingly be replaced by technology. The technical quality of videoconferencing is constantly improving and the cost of travel keeps increasing. Therefore short, routine meetings of small numbers of colleagues who already know each other (and therefore have no need of networking time) can be effectively run using videoconferencing / teleconferencing technology. All other types of meetings will continue to be run on a face-to-face basis, because that is the best means of them achieving their objectives. Some companies still have doubts concerning the security of videoconferencing, and that is slowing the rate of adoption of that technology.

3.- How important is Corporate Social Responsibility within the Incentive Industry?

As an element of Incentive Trips, CSR is becoming more important by the day. It is being largely driven by Generation Y (people in their 20s and early 30s), who enjoy doing something positive for those people living at the incentive destination who are disadvantaged in some way – for example, homeless, orphaned or just suffering from the effects of poverty. More and more incentive trips include activities which appeal to incentive travel participants who want to ‘make a difference’ to disadvantaged members of the communities based in the destination, as a way of ‘leaving something behind’. It might be something as simple as raising money for a local charity at the gala dinner. Or it might be more hands-on: working for a few hours in a food-bank distributing food to the needy, for example.

4.- You were named recently as one of the most influential persons in the business events industry for ensuring the continued presence of high-calibre graduates entering the industry? How do you evaluate the professionalism in our sector? Do you think there is something we should improve in Spain in order to keep on being one of the most visited countries in the world?

I have been very encouraged to see how standards of professionalism in our industry have risen in many countries over the past 10 years. Universities have no doubt played an important role in this – as have the professional associations for the meetings and incentive travel sectors. These days, young people can choose to take University courses in subjects such as Conference Management or Events Management in countries all over the world, including Spain. So when they graduate they enter the job market already having a very good understanding of our industry and how it works. But the success of these courses depends very much on professionals from our industry (meeting planners, incentive travel organisers, venue managers, convention bureau managers, et cetera) coming into Universities and sharing their knowledge and expertise with the students. That is something I would encourage everyone to do, if they are already working in this industry.

5.- In your opinion what is the right strategy to start business with companies from the emerging markets from the BRIC (Brasil, Russia, India and China) countries?

Get to know each of these countries and what they need from our industry. Listen carefully to what they want from destinations and venues and find out how they make decisions about where and when they hold their meetings and incentive trips. The best way of doing this is by investing in research and also exhibiting at trade shows specifically held for our industry, such as CIBTM in Beijing. By the way, I would add South Africa to that list of emerging markets. These days, we speak more and more about the BRICS.

6.- Last but not least: what is your suggestion to DMC’s – how can we increase business within the actual economic situation? What is the clue?

Make it extremely clear to your clients how you add value to their events. Clients will continue to pay if they see that DMCs are entirely earning their fees by providing an imaginative, valuable service that saves them (the clients) time and money and reduces stress levels. DMCs are in a powerful position to make their clients’ events look and feel successful, and they can use their experience and knowledge of the destination to make creative suggestions of ideas that could actually save the client some money – for example by using a children’s orchestra from a local school at the opening ceremony, rather than expensive musicians. As an industry, we must constantly remind clients and potential clients that incentive travel can boost their productivity and profitability. The book of 15 case-studies produced last year by SITE does this very well. DMCs should make sure that all of their top clients read that!

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