Nigel Gaunt, president, Professional Convention Management Association — The Incentive Conference & Event Society Asia-Pacific

Time to Lift our Collective Game

When senior executives at one of Australia’s leading banks stand accused of conspiring with the owner of a business events agency to defraud their employer, it is hard to pick which industry comes off worst; the banking industry or the business events industry.

In the case of the banking industry it is already the subject of a Royal Commission, so it is probably just another piece of bad news to add to the pile of bad press the major banks have been attracting recently.

However, for the business events industry things are different, generally we are the good news industry. Steve Ciobo, Australia’s Minister for Trade, Tourism & Investment Tourism Minister, recently announced increased business events bid funding of $12 million through Business Events Australia. Inbound business events from places like China keep growing and show no sign of slowing. Domestically, more and more companies are turning to business events as a platform to educate, motivate & reward employees, channel partners and customers.

So, what is our multi-billion-dollar sector doing to impose some self-regulation on intermediary agencies like the one currently under investigation? Not much.

PCMA-ICESAP (Professional Convention Management Association — The Incentive Conference & Event Society Asia-Pacific) has developed intermediary agency accreditation, which is a voluntary scheme for agencies to be able to readily and cost effectively undertake accreditation. It involves a probity check, a competency check, a code of conduct and a set of best practices.

Developed in consultation with the APEC Tourism Working Group over a two-year period, we thought it was a no-brainer for agencies to get on board. I was wrong, with few beyond the large global agencies taking up the opportunity. Those who have are now enjoying the first-mover advantage. However, we wanted to ‘level the playing field’ between the larger and smaller agencies as, with ever increasing procurement protocols and processes, small agencies were being put off from bidding.

To date, little has been done to regulate agencies that are small to medium sized businesses. In real terms, agency accreditation offers the following benefits: it does a probity check on the business and its owners/directors, competency check on managers and staff and it sets in place a code of conduct and best practices that agencies need to adopt.

Whilst these conditions apply to all agencies, big and small, the benefit to smaller agencies is greater, as they have more work to do in achieving these. As well as this, we envisage this scheme will build confidence for all small to medium agencies across the incentive travel, conference, corporate meetings and business events planning space.

I have been privileged to serve as the inaugural president of ICESAP, now fully owned and integrated into PCMA. My time in this industry is rapidly coming to an end, but I can say, if there was ever an organisation with the scale & resources to run what is initially a pan Asia Pacific Agency Accreditation scheme, and have the ability to take it global, it is PCMA.

All it needs is agency owners to get on board without further delay, and agency clients to ask one more question; “Are you PCMA-ICESAP Accredited?”



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