Possible merger of ITMA and CEA may create united voice

A new ‘super-body’ to represent the corporate events industry could be created if a proposed merger between the ITMA and the CEA (the Corporate Event Association, formerly the Corporate Hospitality Association) goes ahead. ITMA executive director Charles Robinson said that amending the association’s membership criteria, such as when it dispensed with the ATOL licence requirement (CIT, June 2003), had paved the way for this initiative. "There is a need to have a more powerful voice and to raise our profile, and that calls for an association to represent the different segments of the industry," said Robinson. "Regulators and government do not want to have to deal with splinter groups, there has to be one unified body that can argue the case for the C&I industry as a whole." CEA chairman Sam Gill said there was enough common ground between the members of both bodies to make the merger viable, but that the different profile of each membership would help avoid too much overlap. "One clear benefit to merging the two bodies is that it would give us greater resources and a larger budget because of the economies of scale involved," said Gill. He added he believed there are currently too many associations operating within the meetings sector. "The fragmented nature of our business means there are a number of bodies competing against one another for membership; there should be one association to bring the industry together." While Robinson claimed feedback to the proposal has been largely positive, some agencies highlighted areas of caution. "The problem with banding together into one ‘mega-association’ is it might dilute the original purpose of the ITMA," commented Travel Impact director Ray Roberts. "Certain sections of the industry, for instance incentive houses, could find themselves eclipsed and the issues they face may not be properly addressed." A further announcement on the outcome of the talks is expected in around a month’s time.

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