MPI WEC 2023 headed to Mexico last week—the first time the association took its signature event south of the border and used an all-inclusive resort.
Meeting Professionals International (MPI) took its signature event, MPI WEC 2023, to the Barceló Maya Grand Resort in Riviera Maya last week, marking both the first time the organization took its event to Mexico, and the first time it went to an all-inclusive resort. It seems this was a good move — MPI WEC 2023, which was held June 13–15, drew about 1,400 attendees to the event, with about another 100 attending virtually. While this wasn’t a post-pandemic record-beater — the meetings industry association pulled in more than 2,000 in-person attendees at last year’s WEC in San Francisco, along with several hundred virtual attendees — that’s not really a fair comparison, since last year’s event also celebrated the organization’s 50th anniversary. Pre-pandemic, WEC averaged around 2,500 in-person attendees.
MPI WEC 2023 went south of the border for the first time at least in part to acknowledge and celebrate both the overall growth in the Latin American meetings market, and MPI’s increasing membership in Mexico, which has swelled 60% over the past four years. MPI also has two new chapters in the region, Caribe Mexicano and Columbia, and two new clubs for Argentina and Ecuador. Overall, MPI membership is recovering from its pandemic-era drop-offs, and now numbers almost 6,000 planner members and a similar number of supplier partners.
As to the choice of taking the conference to the onsite convention center at Barcelo’s all-inclusive resort, MPI’s intention was to showcase how business learnings and connections can successfully take place in non-traditional settings, said MPI leaders at a press conference held during the event. And the use of an all-inclusive resort in a desirable Caribbean locale also was intended to help the organization ride the growing trend of conference participants mixing a little pleasure with their business by bringing along the family and extending the trip pre- and post-event. While the Mexican state of Quintana Roo is a popular one for leisure travelers — the Cancun International Airport saw 30 million passengers last year — the destination also wanted to showcase its ability to host business meetings and events such as MPI WEC, according to Javier Aranda Pedrero, CEO of Mexican Caribbean CVB.
This year’s WEC also continued its tradition of shaking up industry traditions with this year’s formatting, which included five general sessions and four keynotes. The general sessions were designed to focus on topics that would connect peers to knowledge and inspiration to help them stay ahead of the curve and continue to grow personally and professionally. Other programming tweaks included starting sessions later and keeping them shorter to give people more time to network, and an opportunity to explore more of the resort’s six hotels. And, of course, meet with hosted buyers — more than 120 of the 600 event planners attending the show took part in the hosted buyers program, which entailed 2,300 appointments with the 140 participating suppliers. While there was plenty to do at the massive resort, MPI also took attendees to Xcaret for the opening celebration and to the Hilton Tulum for its President’s Dinner, at which it honored Kitty Ratcliff and MPI Chapter Presidents.
MPI also held a number of fundraisers for the MPI Foundation, which were projected to have raised more than $100,000 in total. In addition to the President’s Dinner, fundraisers included the G3 golf tournament at Hard Rock Golf Club, the WEC Silent Auction, a live auction and raffle, and the Closing Night Rendezvous party at the Barcelo Maya Riviera beach. Last year, the MPI Foundation distributed more than $110,000 to the global community.
At the WEC 2023 press conference, MPI leaders also reaffirmed the organization’s commitment to its key strategic pillars: brand awareness and industry advocacy; industry innovation, education and delivery; dynamic business exchanges; expanding the engaging its diverse community; and operational excellence. It also reaffirmed its commitment to sustainability through the recent launch, in partnership with Marriott, to create custom MPI Academy education focused on sustainability in the events industry.
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