Newly appointed AIPC president, Aloysius Arlando, talks digitalisation, competition and talent.

What are the biggest issues facing convention centres today?

How to trend-set and trail blaze in today’s digital economy. It’s not about embracing digitalisation for its own sake, rather what does digitalisation mean for a centre and what do we want it to do? To drive revenue? Improve customer experience? This transformation process needs to start with a firm vision and strategy—premised on how the centre brings value to its stakeholders and the destination it is in. It also depends on its courage and commitment to drive change without losing sight of the end game.

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Convention centres today are no longer about the hardware or even the software. It’s about UX (user experience) and how centres play a role through various touch points to create a customer journey.

It’s no longer about differentiating yourself from the competition, it’s about putting yourself in a novel playing field so you are not just different but unique.

Where will the industry be five years from now?

Convention centres will move beyond being venue providers or even partners and solution providers, to community builders. An integral player in a destination’s brand positioning and delivering economic and social value to the destination.

What do you think are some of the best opportunities available to centres right now? Are they taking advantage of them?

Centres are striving earnestly to adopt appropriate digital transformation initiatives that can help engage customers and grow their business. Digital transformation is not just about adopting new technologies. It is also about getting the right digital talent to support—and be integrated into—the organisation, while existing talent must be prepared to embrace the new direction through the edification process, as well as partnering with digital accelerators to ensure speed to market.

Centres should capitalise on or deepen their partnerships with local governments, bureaus and industry players and forge a strong alignment in order to secure (international) meetings business. This is the one and only advantage within their grasp to strengthen their collective ability to stand out from the competition.

We’re living in a very competitive world. How should centres compete for business today?

By being adaptable, by listening to customers, by being brave, by focusing on the end game and by being visionaries. Not to look backwards (at legacy and so on), not even by looking around at the competition, but looking beyond it. The only way to revolutionise is to trail blaze.