Careers in business tourism and events management can be really exciting as it ranges from major sporting, social, political and business events, such as the Special Olympics or international conferences, to some of the most memorable personal events, like weddings and other celebrations.
Business tourism and events is a very important sector for the Irish economy as business tourists and event goers spend money on a wide range of businesses during an event or trip, such as hotels, taxis, dining out, entertainment, shopping, cultural experiences and tourist attractions.
Fáilte Ireland estimates that each business tourist “is worth” almost three time as much to the economy, compared to a leisure tourist, as they spend an average of €1,600 per visit. In 2018, business was the main reason for 13% of all tourists from abroad to come to Ireland. Ireland has some unique features which help attract business tourists, as it is an English speaking country which is known for its stunning nature, friendly people and interesting culture.
The term ‘MICE’ is sometimes used in relation to the business tourism sector. It is short for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions which is how this sector is sometimes summarised. There is often an overlap between them and they can be explained as follows:
- Meeting - organising any number of people for a meeting
- Incentive - group outings for a company's employees to reward and increase staff motivation
- Conference - organising itineraries, meetings, and events for people from the same profession or field
- Exhibition - organising showcases and exhibitions which may or may not be part of a conference or larger event
You might also come across terms such as ‘meeting industry’ or ‘events industry’ and they all refer to group tourism dedicated to planning, booking, and facilitating conferences, seminars and other events.
This sector also includes a range of small and big events, from weddings and parties, to festivals and international conferences and exhibitions.
Festivals take place in cities, towns and more rural locations right across Ireland every year and include both major music events such as Electric Picnic, and smaller festivals such as Puck Fair in Killorglin and the Fleadh Cheoil which is held in a different town each year.
What skills are needed?
There are different types of jobs in this sector, but most of them require the following skills:
- Problem solving
- Attention to detail
- Time management
- Ability to work under pressure
Working in business tourism requires extensive planning, and can often involve highly demanding clients.
There are some relevant PLC and further education courses in tourism and events management, as well as undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. But many event coordinators come from either a sales or marketing background where they have built up both essential skills and a network of professionalswhom they can call upon. With a marketing background, you may build up relevant experience related to planning, organising and advertising. With a sales background, you can use your peopleskills in selling exhibition spaces or negotiating with venue managers, caterers and other services.
Conference and event organisers, coordinators or managers, have a varied and broad range of tasks, as they have to plan, organise and execute events.
As part of the planning and organising stages, they have to find and book suitable venues, organise invitations, arrange accommodation, catering facilities and obtain technical equipment, and sometimes also arrange social activities.
During the conference or event, they also have to ensure that events run smoothly, that suppliers and/or presenters turn up on time, but also that the event adheres to health and safety or sustainability concerns. They may be in charge of staff or volunteers and they have to be able to think and act quickly if problems arise or someone makes an unexpected request.
St. Patrick's Festival Parade 2017
What types of ‘event-jobs’ are there?
Some key employers in this sector include hotels, universities, concert halls, sports arenas, convention centres or professional conference organisers. Some also work independently, as freelancers/self-employed.
Some examples of key job titles include:
- Event Coordinator – Focus on planning, organising and overseeing all aspects of an event, such as food, décor, personnel, presenters, and technology.
- Wedding planner - Weddings are a huge industry and wedding planners help their clients make decisions that fit their expectations and budgets, as well as overseeing that everything runs smoothly on the day.
- Venue manager - Experts on their own spaces, which may be an arena, a concert hall, or a ballroom, where they know how the layout, logistics, and ambiance will work for a variety of different events. They may also be in charge of sales and marketing for the space, to bring in new events and promote upcoming shows.
- Catering Services Manager -Most catering managers have a background in food preparation and need strong planning and problem-solving skills.
- Staff or Volunteer Coordinator - Many events rely on temporary or volunteer help to succeed, especially at cultural and music events in venues which do not regularly host such events. A staff coordinator is in charge of all the logistics related to the personnel on site for the event which may include training the staff and handling any unforeseen problems.
- General Events Staff - Assist in the logistical management of events. Responsibilities typically include preparing venues and setting up chairs and stages for events, ushering and helping guests and delegates find their way around, as well as ticket sales and operating cash registers.
We mean business…
Business tourism contributes a lot to the Irish economy (€715million in 2016 to be exact!). Fáilte Ireland has partnered with Tourism Ireland and Tourism Northern Ireland to offer information, services and even funding to make it as easy as possible for business to choose Ireland as a ‘meeting destination’. See their dedicated website here: https://www.meetinireland.com/, where there are contact details for registered Professional Conference Organisers (PCO) who work alongside businesses every step of the way to help with the financial management, delegate registrations, marketing and executing the event. They have local knowledge and can advise business of suitable venues, logistics and suppliers and activities. These Professional Conference Organisers can vary in size, but often employ a number of events directors and project managers who may specialise in specific areas.
There are also seven Regional Convention Bureaux (RCBs) offering impartial advice and local insights to businesses abroad in relation to meeting in Ireland. They are located in Dublin, Cork, Shannon, Galway, Kerry, Derry-LondonDerry and Belfast.
Four quick facts about some of the biggest events in the world…
- One of the biggest events every year in Ireland is St. Patrick’s day! Over 3 000 people usually take part in the parade in Dublin, with around half a million people on the streets to watch them!
- 165,000 – that is the number of staff and volunteers who worked together to execute the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016. And there were 4 million meals served to athletes, staff, and volunteers during the nearly three-week event!
- The Hannover exhibition centre in Germany is the largest convention centre in the world. It was built after World War II and the largest trade show it hosts is the Hannover Messe, which has over 6,000 exhibitors and 200,000 attendees.
- The largest speed dating event in the world took place on Valentine’s day in Dublin in 2019 and included 964 singles!