Meetings Industry Association hosts successful first Destinations Summit

By Natalie Blachford

The Meetings Industry Association (mia) hosted its first Destinations Summit on 5 and 6 February, held at the Old Ship Hotel in Brighton.

Organised by the mia’s Destinations Group chair Paul Szomoru, head of business events at NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau, the two-day event saw representatives from 20 UK destinations coming together to discuss how to attract more international events and run successful convention bureaux.

Following an opening address from Tony Rodgers, who provided an overview of the fundamentals of running a successful convention bureau, the conference split into two streams for marcoms and business development.

Attendees of the marcoms stream heard from Kirsteen Scott from Discover Britain and Ireland, discussing how to win international business as well as the strengths and challenges of marketing UK destinations. Key takeaways from the session included the value of networking both in the UK and overseas, how important it is to work with and support your partners, and how sector strengths can be a major factor in winning business, but only when those strengths are specific and demonstrable.

This was followed by a session on exhibition excellence, with Richard Allchild from IMEX Group and Jack Marczewski from The Meetings Show sharing their top tips for getting the most out of attending, including turning it into a year-round marketing opportunity by working closely with the show teams, being strategic in stand positioning and design, and thinking about the ROI you want to achieve ahead of the event.

Elif Balci Fisunoglu, the new European Regional Director of ICCA, also joined the summit to talk about how destinations can make the most out of the ICCA database and collaborate with other members. Elif offered advice on creating local bids and creating partnerships with like-for-like destinations, as well as touching on her planned focus in her new ICCA role.

Other speakers included Lesley Williams from Caeliam Ltd, Chris Gibbs from Pincus Solutions, Jaime Bennett, sales and marketing director at Conference Partners, Sally Greenhill from The Right Solution, Kerrin MacPhie from Visit Britain, Paul Colston from Conference News, Paul Harvey from M&IT and Tracey Halliwell and Barbara Jamison from London & Partners.

Paul Szomoru, Destinations Chair for the mia, said: “We were absolutely delighted by the number of destinations in attendance at our first ever Destinations Summit, and the fantastic quality of the speakers on both days. There was a huge amount of insightful knowledge shared, and having the opportunity to meet and network with peers and discuss challenges, successes and best practice, will hopefully prove invaluable for all who attended.”

The mia’s Destination Summit was sponsored by Visit Britain, Visit Brighton and British Airways i360.

For more information about the mia, visit