Written by Paula Blomster
Congress Manager at Messukeskus
President of MPI Finland
For decades Finland has been a land of engineers and heavy industry. The service sector and its opportunities grew some attention only recently. In 2013, the Minister for Economy, the future mayor of Helsinki, Jan Vapaavuori took up the meaning of the travel industry. Some funds were allocated in governmental tourist promotion projects, after years of substantial cuts.
Today there is a number of Finnish politicians who speak for the travel industry. MPI Finland chapter had hand-picked four of leading politicians in-favor for travel business, who also represent different political parties and regions. They were invited to participate in a panel discussion on March 30th, organized within the framework of “Kongressi” fair, the largest trade fair in Finland for the meeting industry. The objective for MPI Finland was to transform these politicians to be ambassadors for our sector. The topic was “Economic growth through events”.
The Master of Ceremony was a past president of MPI Finland Chapter, Juhapekka Koppanen, a Finnish event guru. He made extensive presentations of the meaning of the meeting industry, for example by presenting the magic that can be created when promotion of high-tech is combined with a mind-blowing event. In Helsinki SLUSH (http://www.slush.org/) has raised over €500 million euros of foreign direct investment for start-ups. The examples were needed, as some of the politicians returned time to time to the theme of travel industry on their comments. This seems to be our true challenge; the inputs created for the travel industry are not to be questioned, but the spin-offs for the knowledge economy through our activities seem to be hard to understand by outsiders.
The politicians who joined were Lenita Toivakka, former minister for Foreign Trade (Conservative party), Anni Sinnemäki, a strong candidate to become mayor of Helsinki (Green party), Ville Skinnari a former professional ice-hockey player from a well-established political family and member of Nordic Council (Social Democrat) and Mikko Kärnä, who represented Lapland, Nordic cooperation and the ruling Center Party.
There were no political differences among the points of view of the panelists. It was wonderful to hear their support for event industry and the feedback from the audience was very positive. The politicians received various applauses; Mikko Kärnä for his comment on current government negotiations: “a minister for travel and event industry should be appointed”. Former minister Toivakka pointed out, that an international congress visitor consumes 4-5 times more than an average tourist, which makes our sector extremely important including the promotion of Finnish know-how.
Our cyber-guest Mr. Hans Ravnkjaer Larsen from MPI Denmark Chapter, brought laughs with his questions. He mumbled the first one in the extraordinary language of Danish. Fortunately, Lars changed to English and thanks to his questions, we now have good material to continue in our efforts to be the voice of industry. For example, Ms. Sinnemaki placed the event industry on the less advanced economic sector, if you look at the clip, you can see, that she states; there are two strategies to promote employment, one on /high tech sector and then the second on the service sector including events, which creates employment for people with less education.
Time flew by with our politicians and we would have loved to continue the discussion for an additional 30 minutes. However, MPI Finland Chapter is determinate to continue to work with the local politicians. End of the event panelists were asked to choose between different statements to show their support for us. They chose the following statements: “I am ambassador for the event industry”, “I want to have more international congresses in Finland”, “Economic growth through events”, and respecting the up-coming GMID “Meetings mean business”. In the group photo Mr. Koppanen has taken MPI slogan “When we meet, we change the world!” Now we even have picture evidence of the support of these leading politicians. Next time we just need to get to an action plan.