In an effort to strengthen its foothold in Asia, the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) has acquired the Incentive, Conference and Event Society Asia Pacific (ICESAP).

Headquartered in Chicago, PCMA has a strong membership base in North America, with 17 chapters throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. In recent years, however, the organisation has steadily grown its presence in Asia Pacific through partnerships with the likes of Singapore Tourism Board, Melbourne Convention Bureau, SACEOS and MACEOS. And now its feet are well and truly on the ground.

PCMA chief operating officer, Sherrif Karamat, tells CEI Asia the acquisition supports organisation’s strategic vision to become a global body and strengthen the business events industry through education.

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“Education doesn’t have borders and this is something our members are demanding. We’ve already seen organic growth [in APAC] through alignment and acquisition, and now we have boots on the ground—we’ve never had that before.”

Karamat insists PCMA “wont mess with the ICESAP structure” and will retain all current staff and the Singapore headquarters, led by Nigel Gaunt, who will remain president.

“We want to be the ‘intel inside’ that powers ICESAP,” Karamat says. “We will provide our back-of-house strength with CRM and technology to bolster engagement, assist the team with data mining and insights, and strengthen initiatives such as industry accreditation and distance learning.

“We will look at the membership and make sure we provide the right tools and resources.”

ICESAP's annual conference provides face-to-face learning

ICESAP will add its corporate and agency members into PCMA’s largely association-focused membership and usher in new education platforms such as its new Agency Accreditation Programme— which launched in July and already has a few major industry players onside, including BI Worldwide, MCI, George P. Johnson and BCD Meetings & Events.

The acquisition is set to propel the growth of ICESAP, which launched in earnest in 2014 with a resolute Nigel Gaunt and a handful of supporters who were keen to see the society succeed. Today the association has close to 700 members—representing event agencies, corporate clients and suppliers—as well as four regional vice presidents across APAC.

ICESAP will retain its brand identity and Asia-Pacific focus under a broader PCMA umbrella, sitting amid a 'family of brands' that includes PCMA’s Digital Experience Institute, Convene Magazine and the not-for-profit PCMA Education Foundation.

“It’s business as usual,” says Gaunt, “but with the added strength that PCMA brings to bear.”

Gaunt adds: “For me personally, it is validation of the investment of time and money I have made over the past four years in establishing what I felt was needed for our industry in Asia Pacific.”

In a similar vein, PCMA Board of Directors chair-elect, Claire Smith, says the organisation is ready to take the next step.

“We’ve had a hugely successfully history and now we’re setting up for the future and positioning ourselves as a global organisation with outreach programmes in different markets – with Southeast Asia and Australia a key focus.

“Our traditional PCMA audience is also looking aboard for other perspectives and experiences and we want to tap into this intellect on the other side of the world,” she says.

Pictured: Nigel Gaunt, president, ICESAP, shakes hands with PCMA COO Sherrif Karamat, while Claire Smith, chair-elect, PCMA Board of Directors, looks on. They are joined by Philip Pang, marketing & membership manager, ICESAP, and Michelle Crowley, PCMA’s senior director of global strategy.