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ICCA Presidential Message // May 2018

ICCA President Nina Freysen-Pretorius' Plenary Address given at IMEX 2018 in Frankfurt on Monday 14 May 2018.
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ICCA President Nina Freysen-Pretorius originally delivered this Plenary Address at ICCA's Plenary Meeting on Monday 14 May 2018 at IMEX 2018 in Frankfurt.

Good afternoon ICCA members and friends,

I would like to acknowledge and thank Mr. Ray Bloom, Ms. Carina Bauer, and the entire IMEX team for presenting ICCA members with this opportunity to meet and gather before the show to attend to our association matters. We are very appreciative and grateful for your partnership and support.

The past ICCA President, Mr. Arnaldo Nardone and fellow ICCA board members, I would also like to take this opportunity to recognise each of you.

Thank you for the valuable contribution, time and effort you have made over the last couple of months. With many deliberations and discussions on our agenda, this has perhaps been a period of far greater demand on each of you personally, and I sincerely appreciate everyone’s contributions, big or small.

To our CEO and all the ICCA Directors and staff: it’s great to have you paddling the canoe, banging the drums and moving ICCA in the direction that we need to go. It’s not always an easy task, but one that each of you do with great passion and complete professionalism.

This plenary, as you know, is a very short one and aimed at dealing with some critical member feedback from Head Office and Board decisions that you as members need to be aware of – not really the platform for a major Presidential type speech or politicking! So, in order to keep to the time and not get into trouble with our CEO and the agenda matters, I had to give considerable thought to what it was that I wanted to share with you as the President.

But being a woman who can multitask and always has much to say, this was no easy task. As you all know, my second and final term of office as the ICCA President will come to an end at our AGM and Conference in Dubai in November this year.

With this exciting change of leadership and a change of role for me – as I will be taking on the position as immediate past president - my thinking was that of “what has been done” and “what still remains to be done”.

What challenges do we face?

In my opinion, one of the greatest challenges that we face individually, as countries or destinations and as a global economic sector, is the unpredictable change that we see around us.  Millennials who participated in the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers Survey 2017 believe climate change is the most serious issue affecting the world today.

The top 10 most concerning world issues according to the millennials participating in the survey were:

  1. Lack of economic opportunity and employment (12.1%)
  2. Safety / security / wellbeing (14.1%)
  3. Lack of education (15.9%)
  4. Food and water security (18.2%)
  5. Government accountability and transparency / corruption (22.7%) 
  6. Religious conflicts (23.9%)
  7. Poverty (29.2%)
  8. Inequality (income, discrimination) (30.8%)
  9. Large scale conflict / wars (38.9%)
  10. Climate change / destruction of nature (48.8%)

50% of the world’s population is under the age of 30. While they have a powerful voice, they are not being listened to by decision-makers.

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), over 66 million youth are without a job globally, and nearly 145 million youth are working, yet living in poverty.

Whilst we as an association and industry are all well-aware of the changes around us and the impact these changes have, our response and approach up until now has been completely reactive to our environment. We have identified the importance our products and services can and do add in creating a chain reaction that leads to improved education, political change, environmental awareness and medical enhancement, but how do we actively, if not aggressively, become the driver and key player of this process?

As an analogy of our current situation, I believe we are very much the remora fish that supports the shark.

The shark and the remora

The shark and remora relationship benefits both species. Remoras eat scraps of prey dropped by the shark. They also feed off parasites on the shark’s skin and in its mouth. This makes the shark happy because the parasites would otherwise irritate the shark. Studies show that many shark species seem to understand the benefits a remora has on its life and well-being.

While most shark species appreciate remoras, not all are happy with this symbiotic relationship! Sandbar and lemon sharks have been documented as acting aggressively and even consuming beneficial remoras. Despite these rare instances, the shark and remora relationship is one of the ocean’s most steadfast, and will likely continue for the next million years!

We at ICCA have strategically identified and agreed that greater advocacy and awareness of our sector is needed; statistical proof and financial ROI is essential to ensure we get the recognition our contribution deserves. Within ICCA we have influential, passionate, experienced and professional members flying the flag between politicians, associations and one another.

But our challenge remains: how do we actually cement and engineer a bridge between ourselves, the associations and government? Perhaps we need to change our approach and be a bit more like the pilot fish, who does not have to attach itself to the shark but swims alongside, and has a mutually beneficial relationship without being dependant on one another for procreation and survival.

As a Board, we have been discussing many key areas within our association that may or should change so that we may improve the member offering to the best of our collective ability. These include but are not limited to: our Membership structure and fees; greater advocacy with a collaborative approach to other sector associations; and improved governance to ensure we are geared to deal with what our members expect now and in the future.

Whilst we continue with the discussion and questions surrounding how we can best change and adapt, whilst at the same time taking cognisance of the most concerning world issues, we must turn to those before us who have led by example and continue to inspire.

Taking inspiration from those who have gone before us

On 9 October 1963, Nelson Mandela joined 10 others on trial for sabotage in what became known as the Rivonia Trial. While facing the death penalty his words to the court at the end of his famous "Speech from the Dock" on 20 April 1964 became immortalised:

“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Nelson Mandela never wavered in his devotion to democracy, equality and learning. Despite terrible provocation, he never answered racism with racism. His life is an inspiration to all who are oppressed and deprived and to all who are opposed to oppression and deprivation.

He died at his home in Johannesburg on 5 December 2013.

So, in the work that we do, and ultimately the contribution we make and can continue to make, remember this well-known quote by Nelson Mandela, that is still most appropriate today: “It is in your hands to make of our world a better one for all.”

I hope that with the ICCA Board and you are members we can make the changes and improve the world in a small way, with all its complexities to be a better one for us all and our children to come.

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