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AIPC MEMBERS SPEAKLearning to competewith the big boysOnce upon a time, when businesswas booming, convention centredevelopment projects wereapproved more with optimism than due toany hard business analysis. Those days areover, not only because of the economiccrisis, but more due to the structural issuesour industry is facing, at least in Spain.While Spain's national meetings marketreached maturity during the last decade,venue supply has grown dramatically.According to the Spanish Association ofCongress Centres, APCE, our venue poolhas grown from 38 convention centres 10years ago to 72 today, with another 19projects under construction (although threeof them have now been halted) and 31more planned. With this kind of growth,competition in the Spanish market hasbecome a threat to the global industry. However, our challenges are not just aboutsupply, they are also related to demand, andparticularly to public demand. Our exposureto public institutions' demand for meetingsspace is in many cases too high. Withreduced public budgets, this is not likely toremain a short-term issue.There are many changes coming, startingfrom the attitude of public shareholders whoare becoming more conscious of howdependant their centres are on the demandthey themselves create. This will make themmore demanding towards theirmanagement, which will in turn require abigger sales and marketing effort, eventhough available resources will be reduced.So, caught between the demands ofshareholders and the market itself,management style at our centres mustchange in some fundamental ways:Strategic planning based on a deepanalysis and a clear SWOT definition will becritical to justify investments that requireconcrete, long-term goals.A more focused strategic marketing planwill be required and the entire organisationshould become more sales orientated.Convention centres and their respectivedestinations need to find new ways todifferentiate their offers. One of the bestways to do this is to put quality programmesin place to guarantee the best possibleservice levels. In addition, innovation, notonly in technology but also in service, is andwill continue to be a must.In order to sustain this quality, employeetraining will need to be a top priority.Those who evolve properly and become'learning organisations' will not only gainmore Spanish market share, but willbecome much more competitive in thebroader market. When this happens, theSpanish offer will also become even moreManaging Director of the Kursaal Centre in San Sebastian, Iker Goikoetxea Mendoza, says despite venueover-supply in Spain, smaller venues and destinations are training hard in the battle for market share.The Kursaal Centre, San Sebastian, is amember of the InternationalAssociation of Congress Centres (AIPC)and its network of 166 centres in 53countries. Contact: www.aipc.orgcompetitive in the international context. I say 'even' because, according to ICCA,Spain was third in the country rankings for2009 for the number of internationalmeetings hosted.In 2009, the four biggest cities in Spainhosted 75 per cent of the internationalbusiness; in the near future, this percentagewill be reduced, with lesser known, butequally competitive and unique citiesmaking a bigger impact.San Sebastian is a good example. Locatedclose to France, we have for years beenmaking steps towards becoming morecompetitive in an international context; forexample our Congress Centre andAuditorium-Kursaal is a leader forcertification in various quality programmesin Spain, with ISO 9001 and 14001, UNE-170.001-2, Silver with EFQM and the Goldcertificate with AIPC. At the same time, the city and the regionare strategically focused on carving out astrong position in the new knowledgeeconomy through the development ofscience and technology related industriessuch as biomedicine and nanotechnology.The results are already starting to show: lastyear 40 per cent of the conventions hostedin the Kursaal were international.Such lesser-known cities are becomingvery competitive in all the functionalrequirements of the industry, and at thesame time offering qualities such as charmand personality. This will eventually mean anopportunity for more internationalassociations to discover the rich diversity ofSpain, something which will benefit theentire industry.April 2011Conference+Meetings World 2929Iker Goikoetxea Mendoza