Barbra Gustis headshot
A Conversation With Barbra Gustis
Executive Vice President, Educational Development & Meetings
Destinations International

Destinations International is pleased to welcome Barbra Gustis, Executive Vice President of Educational Development & Meetings. We took a few moments to chat with her about her thoughts on the future of the meetings industry.

Why are planners critical to the future of the industry?

Face-to-face meetings are invaluable. Business events serve as a major economic generator in every destination. The business events industry supports jobs and brings money to local economies. According to the Global Economic Significance of Business Events study completed in 2017, the worldwide direct spend in the meetings and events industry was $1.03 trillion. Meeting professionals play a critical role in the design and implementation of these necessary events. Our profession and industry continues to grow and our destinations continue to offer unique cultural experiences.

Why is it so important for the modern planner to work with a convention & visitors bureau?

The CVBs are the destination expert. Using them as your key partner in planning meetings can help you achieve your event objectives and goals. CVBs offer several free services, such as finding the perfect event venue, assist in site visits and pre-planning trips, provide marketing and promotional products for customized travel guides and elevate your event buzz. These services will end up helping the meetings professional in his/her planning and their participants in easily navigating their planning experience and making decisions.

What are some future trends and challenges when talking about business events?

Sustainability has been trending, especially since all the negative effects of our unsustainable practices are now coming back to haunt us. Businesses are now extending their mantra about social responsibility into the events they hold. Fostering sustainable events isn’t just about going paperless or recycling, it’s also about supporting local businesses and integrating charitable activities that impact the local communities.

Another trending area in the meetings industry is customizing event experiences. Many events now use technology platforms to gather attendee preferences and discover patterns in activity. This data allows planners the opportunity to create curated experiences that ensures maximum impact and engagement for each participant. Customization allows event participants to direct their own journey to best meet their needs. A great example are event apps. Event apps can be used to send questions and prompts, giving the participant the power to influence what happens next.

What is one big shift in the industry in the recent past (or near future) that had or will have a big impact on planning events?

Event safety and security. It’s very sad to say tragic incidents of active shooters are more common these days, greatly impacting our communities and loved ones. But there are other causes and need for concern such as riots, terrorist threats, cyber-security data breaches, and forecasting disastrous weather conditions. CVB partners can assist planners with preparing for these potential threats by connecting them to local law enforcement and other community experts to properly gauge safety measures. Planners can collaborate with the CVB, venues, and local security leaders in creating emergency preparedness plans for their events.