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MPI Continues Global Growth at Its First WEC Event in Mexico

MPI President & CEO Paul Van Deventer

This year’s installment of the MPI World Education Congress (WEC) was a year of firsts. 

The event, which took place June 13-15, attracted nearly 1,500 participants—the majority of which were in-person attendees (about 1,400; 100 virtual). MPI WEC traveled to Mexico for the first time, choosing Barceló Maya Grand Resort in Riviera Maya as its host and marking the first time the large-scale industry event has used an all-inclusive hotel as its host venue.  

The move to the Mexican Caribbean was an intentional one. The MPI community in Mexico has grown 60% since 2019 and has recently welcomed two new chapters, Caribe Mexicano and Colombia, as well as two new clubs, Argentina and Ecuador. (Overall, MPI reports that its membership is seeing significant growth since 2022, now nearing 12,000 members—6,000 of which are planner members, composed of corporate, ISBO [independent and small business owners] and associations.) 

MPI Sign at Barceló Maya Grand Resort in Riviera Maya
MPI Sign at Barceló Maya Grand Resort in Riviera Maya

“The MPI membership and our community is extremely passionate about business events, and the efforts to build out the awareness of the Latin American market to bring international events in is an extremely important economic focus for many countries in Latin America right now,” said Paul Van Deventer, president and CEO of MPI. “It was a very natural synergy to be able to bring WEC and over 600 global planners here to see how you can actually bring a business event into this marketplace.” 

MPI also saw attendees using the trip to WEC as a bleisure opportunity, with many bringing family members along and/or extending their trip pre- and post-event. 

Bringing its signature North American event to Mexico for the first time didn’t come without its challenges, however. Van Deventer noted that, typically, the MPI team has internally planned its events. Six months into the planning process, the team reached out to some local planning partners in Mexico that made a positive difference in the execution of this year's event.

“There are big differences in how you do business with crossing the border. And we had frustration points, we had challenges that would probably have been overcome a lot quicker if we just engaged sooner with a local partner,” he said. 

Van Deventer said this was a learning experience for the team, and the association already plans to execute a similar strategy at other international events, like at the European Meetings and Events Conference (EMEC) in Luxembourg in 2024. 

Javier Aranda Pedrero, CEO of Mexican Caribbean CVB, stressed the importance of an event like this in Quintana Roo. Tourism is a major player in the state's economy—30 million passengers came through Cancun International Airport last year—but positioning the destination as one for meetings and events will only expand its growth.

“An event like this has incredible value,” he said, noting that showcasing the destination to 600 planners was worth the investment.

[Related: IMEX-MPI-MCI Future Leaders Forum Prepares Incoming Professionals for Career Success]

Enhanced Programming 

Along with a new location, MPI made intentional changes to its programming at WEC this year—sessions started later, session durations were shorter and attendees were provided more free time to explore and enjoy the amenities of the massive Barceló Maya Grand Resort, which boasts six hotels, including an adults-only hotel that is connected to the onsite convention center where WEC took place. 

The event included five general sessions and four keynotes, additional education sessions and a hosted buyer program. Of the in-person attendees, more than 600 were event planners and the Latin American community represented over 100 in total. More than 120 planners participated in the hosted buyer program, totaling 2,300 appointments spread across 140 suppliers. 

Opening celebration at Xcaret
Opening celebration at Xcaret

“We had five general sessions, which is also new for us, doing that many, but we shortened them all to make them briefer, more impactful, and we created a more relaxed environment with a lot more open space for attendees to spend time with each other and to network and connect,” Van Deventer said. 

Other local venues utilized during the show included Xcaret for the opening celebration and Hilton Tulum for the President’s Dinner. 

WEC is also a major fundraiser for the MPI Foundation. At the time of publication, the event is projected to raise more than $100,000 through its various WEC activations: 

  • G3 golf tournament at Hard Rock Golf Club 
  • President’s Dinner 
  • WEC Silent Auction 
  • Live auction and raffle with over 75 items 
  • Closing Night/RNDZ Celebration 

The MPI Foundation has made a big impact on the meetings community, especially in the wake of the challenges of the pandemic. In 2022, over $110,000 was distributed. In 2023, the MPI Foundation is projected to distribute 55% more funds to the global community. 

Over 50 scholarships were created to assist MPI members to attend WEC 2023 through Wyndham Resorts, Simpleview, Visit Dallas and Encore donations. 

The locations for subsequent WEC events were also recently announced: 

  • 2024: WEC Louisville, May 21-23 
  • 2025: WEC St. Louis, June 17-19 
  • 2026: WEC San Antonio, June 2-4 

[Related: MPI Shows Its Resilience at 2022 WEC San Francisco]

Riviera Maya Sign at Barceló Maya Grand Resort
Riviera Maya Sign at Barceló Maya Grand Resort

Industry Updates from MPI’s Meetings Outlook Report 

MPI shared with media at WEC 2023 highlights from its most recent findings in its Meetings Outlook Report (May 2023) that cited both general optimism about the meetings industry and its recovery, while identifying some challenges, the most prominent being rising costs.  

Highlights from the report include: 

  • 81% predict favorable business conditions for the next 12 months—down slightly from the highest seen, but still incredibly positive. 
  • 83% of respondents expect positive live attendance growth over the next year (41% expect an increase of >10%). 
  • 52% say they’re experiencing difficulty filling job vacancies—a 17% drop since summer 2022. 
  • 65% are already back to pre-pandemic business levels or expect to hit that mark this year. 
  • A majority (55%) say F&B costs are up more than 10%; 50% say the same about hotel accommodations. 

Most respondents expect these extreme cost increases to slow over the next year. 

The Summer 2023 edition will be published on in August.  

MPI Academy Announces New Initiatives 

In addition to the soft launch of a new brand during Global Meetings Industry Day this spring, MPI Academy has announced several new programs and initiatives centered around key industry issues like sustainability and workforce development, including the following. 

MPI Press Conference
MPI Press Conference

Marriott Sustainability Partnership 

MPI and Marriott recently launched a strategic partnership focused on educating and creating awareness around sustainability throughout the events industry. The collaboration has a key focus on creating custom MPI Academy education and content. Kicked off at WEC 2023 through developing and providing an Actionable Sustainability for Today’s Event Strategist Certificate, the next experience will take place at Marriott headquarters, July 12. The event will target 35 planners to attend, again showcasing cutting-edge sustainability content. Additional content includes collaborative editorial with The Meeting Professional, videos, website presence and more. 

MPI Certified 

Four schools have been accepted or are in the process of being certified, including at Anahuac University in Cancun.  

Detroit Workforce Development 

In collaboration with Visit Detroit, the MPI Academy has developed and launched an Emerging Meeting Professional Sponsorship for high school students. The effort also includes a workforce recruitment toolkit for the student base. 

MPI Meeting Essentials 

Joining existing partnerships in Mexico, South Africa and Korea, the MPI Academy is launching its Meeting Essentials certificate delivery program in Colombia in Q3 2023. The initiative helps to spread the ability for industry professionals to gain insights into the best possible experiences while further legitimizing and providing professionalism locally. 

Alliances Update 

MPI continues to align with industry peer associations through formal alliances. This includes formal partnerships with DI, IACC, IAEE, ICHRIE, HSMAI, NCBMP, SITE, SportsETA and its strategic partnership with IMEX.  

Read this next: MPI Expands Existing Partnership and Relationship With NCBMP Through 2026

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About the author
Danielle LeBreck | Senior Content Director

Danielle started at Meetings Today in March 2019 after seven years of editorial experience in the travel and food industries. She oversees all of the destination content for Meetings Today and collaborates with the team on digital content strategy and content marketing initiatives.