French business event planners look toward Asia

THE ASSOCIATION Francaise des organisateurs d’evenements (AFO) is rolling out a series of new initiatives under the direction of its president Serge Tapia, including a stronger push for Asian destinations.

Tapia, owner of French event management firm Au service de l’événement, was elected head of the national association that represents business event planners last July.

According to Tapia, France’s business events industry was worth one billion euros (US$1.32 billion) in 2011, and a seven to 12 per cent growth is expected this year.

“Inbound and outbound business events are split equally now, and 70 per cent of outbound destinations are within a four-hour flight from Paris. The other 30 per cent are longhaul destinations,” he said.

Tapia said he was expecting longhaul business events traffic to rise this year despite cracks appearing in the country’s economy – France lost its AAA credit rating in January and unemployment is reportedly on the rise.

While he has been actively encouraging his own clients to consider Asian destinations for years, Tapia promised that as president of AFO he would endeavour to “advocate Asia” among the association’s members.

“In the past, not many French companies were willing to take their events to longhaul destinations. The fear of a long flight was a reason. Most clients then would not even consider Asia,” he explained.

“Minds have changed and clients have found that the flight to Asia is tolerable. It is increasingly common to have French companies combining a few Asian cities for their incentive trips. For instance, Shanghai and Beijing for a five-day/three-night programme.”

Besides the increased emphasis on Asia, other initiatives being introduced by Tapia to boost AFO’s standing include growing its membership from the current pool of 400 event organisers, establishing links with other related associations, and encouraging partnerships between members and MICE suppliers such as DMCs, hotel chains and airlines.

“In Europe, MICE agents usually don’t want their suppliers to be in touch with clients. I’m changing that,” he said. “I want this industry to be more transparent and cohesive, which will improve service delivery and grow client’s confidence and drive repeat business as a result.”

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