Career aspects of_convention_and_exhibition_professionals_in_asia
Career aspects of convention and
exhibition professionals in Asia
Adele Ladkin and Karin Weber
School of Hotel and Tourism Management, Hong Kong Polytechnic University,
Purpose – The study examines the career motivations, paths and challenges of convention and
exhibition (C&E) industry professionals in Asia.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper reviews the key literature relating to life and work
history research, career proﬁles and human capital, which is followed by a discussion of ﬁndings of an
online survey of C&E industry professionals in Asia.
Findings – Findings indicate that there is no speciﬁc career route/path into the industry, with
experience being generated in a wide variety of sectors, and primarily gained in management, sales
and marketing roles. Professionals show a high level of career commitment and face a variety of
challenges relating to environmental, customer and job demands.
Research limitations/implications – Data were collected from industry professionals from four
South-East Asian destinations only, thus it is important not to generalize study ﬁndings to Asia.
Practical implications are discussed in relation to career development and employee retention,
speciﬁcally in view of the variety of entry points into the industry, potential for job mobility, and
challenges to motivate and retain a committed workforce composed of different generations.
Originality/value – Appropriately educated and trained labor is essential for the success of the
rapidly growing C&E industry. Yet, despite the recognized value of superior staff and the wealth of
employment opportunities, there is little understanding of careers in the C&E sector to date. The
research addresses this gap in the research.
Keywords Careers, Motivation (psychology), Jobs, South East Asia
Paper type Research paper
Career research/theory has received scant attention in the hospitality area in general
and in the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) area in particular.
Especially, the convention and exhibition (C&E) sector has evolved into a highly
visible and very important segment of business tourism, following signiﬁcant growth
in the past decades. Increasingly recognized by governments and National Tourism
Ofﬁces (NTOs) as a highly lucrative market (McCabe, 2008), Asia as a region has made
considerable attempts to capitalize on this market, with extensive investment in
infrastructure giving many Asian cities enviable convention and exhibitions facilities.
The provision of excellent employment opportunities is seen as another beneﬁt the
industry can offer destinations investing in this sector. The wide variety of
employment opportunities largely stems from the fact that the sector is very labor
intensive. The quality of staff inﬂuences customer service that in turn can provide a
competitive advantage. Consequently, appropriately educated and trained labor is
essential for the success of the C&E industry. Yet, despite the recognized importance of
the C&E sector to destinations, together with the value of superior staff and the wealth
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Received 14 July 2009
Revised 4 December 2009
Accepted 31 January 2010
International Journal of
Vol. 22 No. 6, 2010
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
of employment opportunities, there is little understanding of careers in the C&E sector
to date, providing a rationale for research in this area.
This study aims to provide insights into the career development of C&E industry
professionals in leading destinations in South East Asia. In particular it explores career
paths by sector and level of responsibility, geographical and time mobility, career
commitment and career motivations and job challenges. In addition to the practical
value of exploring careers of industry professionals, this paper also contributes to the
current theoretical debate concerning careers in general.
From traditional to contemporary careers
A career has been commonly deﬁned as a series of jobs arranged over time (Riley and
Ladkin, 1994). In the broadest sense, a career is the outcome of structural opportunities
made available to an individual on the one hand, such as the size of the industry,
organizational structure, and knowledge speciﬁcity, and human ability and ambition
on the other hand. The structural opportunities in an industry provide the framework
for any occupation, whereas individual ability and ambition determine how people
make choices presented by structural opportunities. In the past, a career was seen
primarily as the responsibility of the individual. Later, the focus of careers shifted from
the individual to the organization (Gutteridge et al., 1993), whereas more recently,
individuals have again become the driving force for their careers.
Traditional careers were based on hierarchical and relatively rigid structures. Past
career models centered on a linear direction of advancement, that is promotion
(Rosenbaum, 1979), whereby the organizational hierarchy provided the ladder on
which to climb. Consequently, career success was determined by an assessment of
upward mobility, with salary and social status functioning as success indicators.
Career paths were clear, given the stability of structure and clarity of career ladders.
However, contemporary career theory argues that traditional careers based on
hierarchy, progression, and a single organization are in decline (e.g. Eaton and Bailyn,
2000; Hall, 1996; Handy, 1994), being replaced by the concept of a multidimensional
career that develops beyond the boundaries of a single organizational or occupational
setting (Collin and Young, 2000). Ties with organizations are based less on
expectations of a relational, long-term commitment and more on transactional,
short-term, ﬁnancial exchanges.
At the same time, individuals deﬁne career success in different ways, including
inner satisfaction, life balance, autonomy and freedom, and other measures of
self-perception in addition to the traditional measures of income, rank, and status.
They may achieve these outcomes by adopting non-traditional approaches, such as a
lateral move, a change of direction, organization, or aspiration. People can choose from
these options, and there is no single way for reaching success, hence the term
multidirectional career paths. Consequently, a more modern deﬁnition of a career is “a
process of development of the employee along a path of experience and jobs in one or
more organizations” (Baruch and Rosenstein, 1992, p. 478).
Career analysis – work history analysis and career proﬁles
Career analysis represents one of the main ways to explore careers and labor market
issues. Collecting information on individuals’ work histories creates a career proﬁle of a
particular person. When individuals are asked about their working lives, the
information they provide can be used to create a detailed picture of their work history.
Work history data can be collected on many aspects of a person’s working life. It can be
quantitative in nature, for example, the number of jobs a person has held, the length of
each job, and how many times he/she has moved jobs within the external or internal
labor market. It can also be qualitative in terms of gathering data on career choice,
ambition, and personal career motivations.
The collection of work history data has its origins in the life history approach, the
development and use of which have been well documented (Dex, 1991). There are two
main ways of collecting work history data, either longitudinally over time or through
the use of memory recall. The merits and difﬁculties of each of these are described in
full by Dex (1991) while Ladkin (1999) discusses the collection of work history data
using the memory recall method. In terms of data analysis, the work history data
enables career proﬁles to be created which may be explored in aggregate form or as
individual work histories.
Career analysis in the hospitality industry
In the hospitality ﬁeld, career analysis has primarily focused on the careers of
managerial staff in the industry. For example, Ladkin (2002), Ladkin and Juwaheer
(2000), and Ladkin and Riley (1996) examined the career paths of hotel managers in
Australia, Mauritius, and the UK, respectively, with career mobility, career planning,
and career strategies being the key areas of research interest. Numerous studies have
approached career development from a gender perspective (Brownell, 1994), focusing
on speciﬁc barriers faced by females in the industry and special skills required to
overcome constraints for career advancement. The career development of female
executives has been assessed by Weber (1999) in the Las Vegas casino industry
context, Li and Leung (2001) and Ng and Pine (2003) in Singaporean and Hong Kong
hotels respectively, and Kattara (2005) in Egyptian hotels. In addition, several studies
have focused on career anchors of hospitality industry employees (Beck and La Lopa,
2001; Ross, 1995) and career stress responses (Ross, 1997).
While not directly related to career analysis, recent research has assessed
generational differences in work values between baby boomer, generation X (GenX)
and generation Y (GenY) employees (Chen and Choi, 2008; Gursoy et al., 2008), with
such differences likely to have a considerable impact on career development. Chen and
Choi (2008) identiﬁed a series of work values (e.g. security, personal/professional
growth) that were viewed differently by different generations in the workforce, which
were then related to recruitment and retention strategies. Similarly, Gursoy et al. (2008)
focused on generational differences relating to effective leadership strategies and
management styles to increase employee morale and productivity, with a view to
recruit and retain highly qualiﬁed staff.
Recently, research attention has also been directed to career aspects of hospitality
academics, recognizing academics’ importance in shaping the next generation of
leaders, managers and employees in the hospitality industry. Beck et al. (2003) assessed
career anchors while Weber and Ladkin (2008) examined their career proﬁles and
Career analysis in the C&E industry
Despite the lamented dearth of research following early studies by Montgomery and
Rutherford (1994), and McCabe and Weeks (1999) on conventions services managers in
the USA and Australia respectively, some interesting work has recently been
undertaken on careers in the C&E industry in Australia that provides insights into
both theoretical and practical elements of careers in the industry. From a theoretical
perspective, and through an examination of labor mobility in the industry, McCabe and
Savery (2007) identify “butterﬂying” as a career pattern by exploring job movements of
professional conference organizers, employees in hotels and convention venues,
purpose built convention and exhibition centers, and convention and visitor bureaus.
Tracing the careers of the sample revealed that rather than having one particular
career route through different sectors, respondents “ﬂutter” between sectors according
to opportunities and personal choice, building human capital as they go. The
“butterﬂy” pattern can be identiﬁed as an extension and development of the
boundaryless career model (McCabe and Savery, 2007).
From a practical perspective, McCabe and Savery (2007) and McCabe (2008) explore
career development in the industry. McCabe and Savery (2007) examine career
progression through the sectors and by job function and responsibility, and also the
impetus for job moves. McCabe (2008) assesses career planning and development
strategies of individuals. Her sample of 126 employees reveals that the industry is
dominated by well educated females who follow a variety of career routes. Personal
career planning and development strategies were also explored to ascertain how
individuals advance their careers. Findings reveal that strategies relate to both the
internal and the external environments; networking and the need to continually develop
skills over the span of one’s career is regarded as vitally important (McCabe, 2008).
Given the value of human capital to the successful continued development of the
industry, a further understanding of careers in the industry is beneﬁcial to both the
individual in terms of career choice, opportunity and development, and the industry in
respect of how to attract, build on, and retain human capital. This paper adopts a work
history approach to examine C&E industry professionals’ career proﬁles, together with
their career motivations and job challenges, and on that basis offer recommendations
to further advance the standards of the convention industry in Asia.
The sample for this study was comprised of industry professionals from four key C&E
destinations in Asia, namely Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia (ICCA,
2008; UFI, 2007). These destinations have heavily invested in ﬁrst-class C&E
infrastructure and staff development, and promotion, and as a consequence are leaders
in attracting substantial convention and exhibition business. A comprehensive search
for contact details of industry professionals in these destinations was conducted,
utilizing two major sources:
(1) Membership directories of the key industry association in each destination (Hong
Kong Exhibition and Convention Industry Association (HKECIA), Singapore
Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (SACEOS),
Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), and Malaysia Association
of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (MACEOS)).
(2) Websites of key industry players.
The ﬁnal sample was comprised of 693 convention and exhibition industry
An online survey was conducted between January and March 2008 to gather
relevant information for this study. The merits of on-line surveys are well documented
(Sue and Ritter, 2007). A self-administered questionnaire was developed. It was
pre-tested with industry professionals and academics ﬁrst in its paper format for
content issues, and in the subsequent online pre-test for presentation and technical
issues. Minor modiﬁcations in question wording were made to the instrument based on
the feedback received through the pre-tests. The ﬁnal on-line survey was posted on a
designated university website. The sample was invited via email to participate in the
study, and provided with the URL to access the questionnaire. The ﬁrst email and
subsequent follow-ups were sent in early January 2008, mid-February 2008, and early
March 2008 respectively. A total of 112 responses were received. Following elimination
of incomplete questionnaires, the ﬁnal sample size was 104 respondents for a response
rate of 15 percent.
In view of the potential non-response error, multiple measures were employed to
assess its potential effect, based on a review of appropriate techniques (e.g. Armstrong
and Overton, 1977; Collier and Bienstock, 2007). First, a comparison of early and late
respondents (ﬁrst one-third versus last one-third of respondents) was conducted on
select demographic, employment and career variables. Results indicated that early
respondents compared to late respondents were older, in more senior positions, and
identiﬁed more strongly with their career in the industry than late respondents.
Second, a follow-up was conducted with a sub-sample of industry professionals who
did not respond to the invitation to participate in the survey. Reasons for them
declining to participate in the study were primarily related to privacy concerns given
the detail required for the career analysis, in addition to time constraints. However,
there were no other signiﬁcant differences between respondents and non-respondents
on the variables assessed.
The survey questionnaire consisted of three distinct sections. In section 1,
respondents were asked about their background in terms of key demographics (age,
gender, education, and nationality) and their current employment. Of particular
interest to this article is section 2 which inquired about respondents’ career history,
with a speciﬁc focus on respondents’ last ﬁve positions. Details ascertained included
previous jobs’ industry sector and level of responsibility, whether they involved
relocation, and whether any action had been taken to move out of the industry,
employing a closed-ended question format. In contrast, Section 3 adopted primarily an
open-ended question format allowing respondents to provide more detailed
information on their career motivations (to enter and stay in the industry) and job
challenges by ﬁlling in textboxes. However, commitment to their career in the C&E
industry was measured on a seven-point Likert scale ranging from “strongly disagree”
to “strongly agree.”
Since the online questionnaire ascertained data to both closed- and open-ended
question formats, both quantitative and qualitative data analysis was employed.
Career proﬁles were developed in aggregate form by utilizing frequency analysis; with
cross-tabulations and chi-square analysis providing further insights when
cross-referencing the career proﬁles with demographic data. Independent sample
t-tests and ANOVA were conducted to examine potential differences in career
commitment based on gender and generational afﬁliation.
To assess data relating to respondents’ career motivations and key job challenges,
content analysis was employed (Krippendorff, 1980), drawing on multiple methods,
including checklist matrices and “eyeballing,” First, following Miles and Huberman’s
(1994, p. 105) “checklist matrices” framework, patterns and themes in the data were
noted, links with previous literature drawn, and categories identiﬁed that were relevant
to the research question. Second, a technique commonly referred to as “eyeballing” was
employed that required the repeated examination of responses to open-ended
questions, with the purpose of highlighting key phrases and assigning codes to
identify key thoughts and perceptions of each respondent. The data analysis, both
quantitative and qualitative, is based on data provided by 104 respondents.
Results and discussion
The sample comprised of 104 respondents. Of these, 52 percent of respondents were
female, with the remaining 48 percent being male. In terms of age, the largest number
of respondents (42 or 40 percent) was aged between 36-45 years, followed by
respondents aged between 26-35 years (24 or 23 percent), and those aged between 46-55
years (22 or 21 percent). More than one-third of the sample were Hong Kong/Mainland
Chinese (38 respondents or 37 percent), followed by Singaporeans (16 or 15 percent),
Thai (15 or 14 percent) and Malaysians (8 or 8 percent). The remainder comprised of
small numbers of European (British, Dutch, French, German) Australian, New Zealand,
and Canadian nationals.
Of particular interest here is that in terms of educational attainment, more than half
of all respondents had attained an undergraduate degree, with another quarter of
respondents having completed postgraduate education, an indication that high
educational qualiﬁcations appear to be the norm for many of those working in the C&E
industry in the selected destinations. The focus areas for these qualiﬁcations were
business (22), languages (7), and engineering (6).
The sample’s current job titles pointed to many respondents being in senior positions
in the industry, with more than half of all respondents having a senior job title,
including CEO (5), director (18), general manager (10), deputy general manager (2),
managing director (17), deputy managing director (1), and senior vice president (2). A
further 32 respondents were in middle management positions. Exploring job seniority
further in terms of age, there was, not surprisingly, a signiﬁcant relationship between
the two variables (x2
¼ 7:25, df ¼ 2, p , 0.05). Respondents within the 36-50 years
age range held the most senior positions (65.5 percent), compared to those aged 51
years and above (20 percent) and 21-35 years (14.5 percent), suggesting that it is not
necessarily those who are oldest who hold the most senior positions. As would be
expected when examining career paths, those in the youngest age group (21-35 years)
were more likely to hold middle to lower management positions (63.6 percent) than
senior management positions (36.4 percent).
A signiﬁcant relationship was also found between seniority and gender (x2
df ¼ 1, p , 0.01), whereby males held more senior positions (66.7 percent), compared
to females of (33.3 percent). This ﬁnding follows a familiar pattern in terms of careers
of female managers where despite industries being dominated by females (McCabe,
2009), it is males who achieve higher career advancement and attaining more senior
positions. Part-time work and career breaks are likely to have an inﬂuence in this
context, yet this was not further explored given the different focus of our study.
In terms of employment by industry sector, the majority of respondents were
working as exhibition organizers (42 percent), followed by MICE industry suppliers (19
percent), conference/convention/exhibition venues (17 percent) and professional
conference organizers (7 percent). The length of employment in the C&E industry
averaged about 13 years. More than one-third of respondents had been in the industry
between 11 and 20 years, with about a quarter of respondents having worked in the
industry between ﬁve to ten years. About 10 percent of respondents had worked in the
industry more than 20 years.
In terms of career paths, the research explores how respondents’ employment has
changed over time. They show in aggregate form the various jobs that have been
undertaken prior to the current employment. This provides an indication of the sectors
where people have gained prior skills and experience. Two aspects are presented,
industry sector and level of responsibility. In both cases, the sample size declines over
time reﬂecting the fact that not all respondents have held ﬁve jobs. A total of 323 jobs
were reported by respondents for the past four job moves up to the current job.
Career path by sector. Table I shows the career paths of the sample by industry
sector. The sample is dominated by those currently working as exhibition organizers, a
trend that followed through from the previous job. MICE industry suppliers also
feature prominently as the current and previous job sectors. Although there are a
variety of jobs held over time, a key ﬁnding is the large number of respondents who
have come to the sector from outside the C&E industry. There is seemingly no speciﬁc
Job area Present job Previous job Job 3 Job 4 Job 5
Independent professional conference
organizer/meeting planner 5 4 3 4 1
Conference organizer – association 1 2 2
Conference organizer – corporate 1 2 2 1
Exhibition organizer 43 16 6 5 2
Conference venue 6 4 6 4 3
Purpose built – convention and exhibition
centre 12 7 1 1 1
Convention bureau 2
Government – state/federal convention and
events department 2 4
MICE industry supplier 20 15 5 3 3
Other – in MICE industry 12 16 8 7 7
Other – Not MICE industry 29 27 22 14
Sample size 102/104 97/104 64/104 47/104 31/104
Career path by industry
route into the industry, with experience being generated in a wide variety of sectors.
The reasons contributing to this phenomena warrant further investigation. Previous
research in this area (McCabe, 2008), exploring a sample of C&E professionals in
Australia, indicates a high degree of intra-sectorial, inter-sectorial, and inter-industry
mobility, resulting in many different job patterns but no one particular career path.
Thus, results of this study conﬁrm the previous ﬁndings, despite a focus on a different
Career path by level of responsibility. Table II shows the career paths of the sample
by level of job responsibility. The sample is dominated by respondents in senior
positions, thus, it would be expected that more junior roles would have been
undertaken at some point prior to these higher level jobs. This is indeed the case.
Table II highlights three key points. First, within the industry experience is gained in
management, sales and marketing roles. Second, few respondents have gained any
prior experience in the function/banqueting area, whether as a manager, supervisor or
in operations. This is in contrast to the hospitality industry in general, where exposure
to and experience in the F&B area is typically/often a prerequisite to
attaining/progressing to a position as a hotel general manager (Ladkin, 2002; Ladkin
and Juwaheer, 2000). Third, there is a dominance of respondents whose prior jobs were
outside the convention industry. Further analysis is required to establish in which
other industries C&E professional have gained relevant skills and experiences, and
whether there are signiﬁcant differences based on gender, given that it is males rather
than females who attain a proportionally higher number of senior management
positions in the industry.
The extent to which respondents relocated either intra/interstate or internationally,
that is, their geographic mobility, was also examined. Results indicated that about a
third of respondents had relocated to another state/city to take up a new position while
Job level Present job Previous job Job 3 Job 4 Job 5
Principal/CEO/managing director 29 8 6 3 3
Partner 2 2 2 1
Director 24 16 7 6 2
Senior conference/exhibition manager 13 15 8 6 6
Conferences/exhibition coordinator 3 2 3
Account coordinator 2 2 1 1
Venue – convention service manager 1 4 1 1
Venue – convention service coordinator 1
Venue – function/banqueting manager 1 1
Venue – function/banqueting supervisor
Venue – function/banqueting operations 1
Venue – convention sales/marketing director 1 4
Venue – convention sales/marketing manager 5 4 2
Venue – convention sales/marketing executive 3 2 1
Venue – new business development manager 1 1 1
Other – 18 37 25 21 13
Sample size 104/104 94/104 56/104 42/104 27/104
Career path by level of
around 37 percent of respondents had relocated to another country to do so and
thereby, further their career. International experience had been gained in Europe and
the US, and more recently in Asia, reﬂecting the increasingly global nature of the
industry. In terms of their proﬁle, industry professionals who relocated internationally
to further their career were predominantly male (74 percent), aged 36 to 55 years (55
percent), and currently in senior management positions (63 percent). These ﬁndings are
consistent with ﬁndings of previous studies that assess geographic mobility and its
impact on career advancement (e.g. Brett et al., 1993; Landau et al., 1992; McCabe, 2008,
2009; Weber and Ladkin, 2008).
The length of time an individual remains in a particular job can also be considered a
reﬂection of that person’s career planning and development. Assessing time mobility
for the C&E industry professionals in this sample revealed a mean average time of six
years (median of four years) in the current job and a mean average time of 4.5 years
(median of three years) in the previous job, with the average number of years in each
prior job declining. Thus, it would appear that C&E professionals are staying longer in
their more recent jobs than they did in their earlier jobs.
In order to gain further insights into potential differences in respondents’ career
mobility, the median time spent in each job was explored in terms of seniority, gender,
and age/generations (Table III). While there were no signiﬁcant differences between
respondents of different levels of seniority and gender, there appeared to be differences
in terms of the time spent in prior jobs among the babyboomers, GenX and GenY, with
the former displaying the highest median time spent in each prior job, followed by
GenX and ﬁnally, GenY, consistent with prior literature examining differing
characteristics of generations, for example changing job patterns between different
generations (Sullivan et al., 2009). However, rather than pointing to generational
differences only, this ﬁnding may also be in part explained with the importance of
mobility in the early stages of a career, as has been shown in other industries, including
the hospitality industry, where mobility plays an important role in advancing one’s
career (Ladkin, 2002). However, given the relatively small number of respondents in the
GenY category in particular, no conclusive statements can be made here.
Career commitment and career motivations
Respondents displayed a high level of commitment to their career in the industry
(mean ¼ 6:08, SD ¼ 1:13). There were, however, differences in career commitment
based on gender whereby males displayed a higher level of career commitment than
females (t ¼ 2:08, p , 0.05, Mf=m ¼ 5:83=6:30). Furthermore, differences in career
Generation 1 2 3 4 5
GenY 2 1 1 – –
GenX 5 3 3 2 2
Babyboomers 8 4 5 3 5
1 refers to the current job, 2 to the job prior current one, etc
Median years spent in
current and prior job
commitment in terms of generations were established by one-way ANOVA (F ¼ 4:41,
p , 0.01). Post-hoc Bonferroni tests pointed to a signiﬁcant difference in career
commitment between respondents of GenY and Babyboomers, with the former
displaying a lower commitment to their career in the C&E industry than the latter
(MGenY=BB ¼ 5:50=6:73).
Although possible reasons for these ﬁndings can only be speculative, it may be that
females have a higher propensity for family commitments, and as those primarily
responsible for childcare their commitment to their career may be different than that of
their male counterparts. Differences found between GenY and Babyboomer supports
previous research (e.g. Sullivan et al., 2009) that points towards differences in
generational attitudes towards a work life balance, with the former placing higher
importance on such a balance than the latter.
However, overall career commitment was strong, and further evidenced by the fact
that the vast majority of respondents (84 percent) had never taken any action to move
out of the C&E industry into another industry sector. To better understand the reasons
for their commitment to the profession, information was sought on professionals’
motivation for entering and remaining in the industry. Reasons for entering the
industry were varied, but primarily referred to the dynamic nature of the industry, its
varied and social character, and the challenges it presents. Drawing directly from the
qualitative comments provided by respondents, examples of the reasons stated
“It is a very interesting and challenging industry”.
“Challenging and dynamic”.
“Creative with many opportunities”.
“Dynamic, interesting and provides chances to meet people from different
“It is a fun and interesting industry and I wanted to meet lots of different people”.
“Not a 9-5 ofﬁce environment”.
The comments presented are representative of what many felt were the main reasons
they entered the industry. Two common themes were evident. One is that the
profession is perceived to be interesting. It is not viewed as a boring job where tasks
are repetitive and mundane, but one in which the working days might be varied. This
leads to the second theme which is that the job is challenging. Due to the varied and
interesting job nature, industry professionals have to be prepared and ready to react to
the many different challenges that can arise. More insights into the nature of the three
key job challenges that industry professionals have to deal with on a daily basis were
also sought and will be discussed in the next section.
The challenging nature of the C&E industry also emerged as a major reason for
respondents to stay in the industry, mentioned by 21 respondents. Job satisfaction was
the second most important motivator to stay in the industry, with 17 respondents
identifying it. Third was the future prospects/potential of the industry (12), followed by
its people-oriented nature (9). Again taken from the qualitative comments, reasons for
wishing to remain in the industry include:
. “Change (never routine), people, challenging in many areas, travel required”.
“Daily challenges and seeing plans come to fruition and mostly success”.
“Ever-changing working environment and challenges in work nature. Good
career to move up to Director and Shareholders level”.
“Fun, fast growing and dynamic economic environment in Asia and China
makes the job very challenging and enjoyable”.
“I enjoy working with like-minded people who work hard, play hard, are creative,
well organized and result oriented. I continue to enjoy meeting interesting and
inﬂuential people and leaders from all around the world, including the ones that I
worked with . . . ”.
“Job satisfaction, recognition of contribution by the immediate
supervisor/company, promotion available . . . ”.
“You will never get bored in this industry. Able to learn different industry, see
the latest products, services and trends. Meet with lots of vendors and
professionals from different industries”.
The reasons that people remain in the industry appear to be similar to the reasons they
entered in the ﬁrst place, with the added theme that the job is very satisfying.
Similarities in the reasons as to why people were attracted to and remained in the
industry indicate that initial perceptions often proved correct. For people who enjoy
their working environments, the reality of working in the industry lives up to
Its challenging nature was identiﬁed as a major motivator for professionals to join the
C&E industry. Thus, further insights were gained on the type of challenges industry
professionals are currently facing in Asia. Almost all respondents identiﬁed not only
one but a number of challenges they are facing in their current job. These challenges
can be broadly categorized into environmental demands, customer demands, job
demands, and HR issues. In terms of environmental demands, the keen competition in
Asia was regarded as a key challenge, mentioned by 17 respondents, followed by the
demands of the constantly changing market environment (nine respondents). Relations
with customers, and in particular the need to address challenging customer demands
with the expectation of an immediate response was highlighted by 13 respondents.
Challenges relating to the job revolved around the need for creativity and continuously
developing new and innovative products (14 respondents), followed by
ﬁnancial/budget issues (nine respondents) and the need to relate well with so many
different people (seven respondents). Finally, as a subset of job demands, human
resources issues were deemed critical, speciﬁcally challenges related to “leading
subordinates” (15 respondents), “relations with staff”/boss (14 respondents) and the
“recruitment and retention of skilled and knowledgeable staff” (nine respondents).
The exploration of career aspects of C&E industry professionals in key Asian
destinations presented in this paper reveals a number of issues relating to the
development of human capital and labor markets.
First, although there are no speciﬁc educational qualiﬁcations required for the
industry, a degree level education is held by the majority of respondents, speciﬁcally in
the area of business. Although it is not known if having a degree assists with
employment opportunities in the industry, it would appear that higher education
qualiﬁcations are commonplace. Further research is required to ascertain the value of
education to the industry, and with the increase in events-related degree courses to
explore if they are seen as a valuable contributor to career development.
Second, in relation to developing human capital within the industry, evidence
suggests that there are no obvious career routes, and skills and experiences are
developed through a range of different sectors and levels of jobs. This research
supports the concept of “butterﬂying,” identiﬁed by McCabe (2008) in the context of
Australian C&E industry professionals. Furthermore, there is strong evidence to
suggest that those working in the industry have developed their skills outside the
convention industry, indicating that generic skills and experience relevant for the
industry can be gained in a range of different labor markets. Whilst this provides a
wealth of career development opportunities for those interested in developing a career
in the industry, the lack of a deﬁned career route may act as a deterrent to choosing the
industry as a career. Further research is required to test this assertion. In addition, as
evidence suggests that careers in the convention sector are boundaryless, this has
implications for the duration people may remain in the industry. Evidence relating to
professionals’ career commitment suggests that people are very committed to their
profession, but it is not possible to ascertain from the present research how long
respondents may remain in their chosen profession. What is clear however is that the
industry provides a wealth of career opportunities, and is therefore considered by
many as an attractive industry to join. Further research might investigate the types of
skills, education, and experience that create human capital for this industry.
Third, in terms of the ability of the C&E industry to attract to and retain individuals
in the sector from other labor markets, evidence from our sample indicates that those
who enter the industry are very much committed to working in the sector. Although
individuals move jobs within the industry to gain knowledge and skills to build their
human capital, they are committed to the profession. The perceived attractiveness of
the industry combined with the lack of speciﬁc skill requirements indicates that the
labor markets from which to attract employees are large and varied. How best to
develop the careers of people in the industry in order to retain high quality labor is a
subject for future research.
Fourth, it is clear from this and previous research (McCabe, 2009) that the industry
attracts and retains employees of all age groups. Evidence suggests that employee
mobility alters over the course of an individual’s lifespan, and is also related to
seniority as people progress in their careers. The recruitment, retention and
development of careers has been shown by this and previous research (Chen and Choi,
2008; Gursoy et al., 2008; Solnet and Hood, 2008; Sullivan et al., 2009) to be inﬂuenced
by generational differences. Thus, future research beneﬁcial to the ﬁeld could focus on
establishing how to best attract, develop and maintain such a diverse workforce with
fundamentally different work values and approaches to their careers.
The implications of this research are threefold. First, for those considering a career
in conventions and exhibitions there are many different entry points into the sector,
therefore the industry welcomes those who may be currently in other occupations or
those who are currently ﬁnishing studies and looking to start a career. Although
educational qualiﬁcations are non-speciﬁc, it does seem increasingly that new recruits
are graduates. Once in the industry, there are opportunities for changing jobs within or
between the sectors and mobility, often globally, is an expected part of career
Second, employers can be conﬁdent of a committed workforce who choose the
occupation for the challenges and rewards it brings. Perhaps the main challenge for
employers is to consider the different ways to manage, motivate and develop a
workforce representing different generations, each with unique characteristics and
traits. Furthermore, a constant challenge for employers is to ﬁnd ways to attract and
retain a professional workforce in the absence of a clearly deﬁned career route. Human
resource strategies that draw on innovation and creativity may be required to ensure
those who join the workforce have opportunities for career development and
advancement, as discussed in previous research by Wong and Ladkin (2008).
Finally, there are currently global economic challenges that inevitable had an
impact on the C&E industry, and as a result employment in the sector has become less
secure with fewer opportunities available. Although many Asian destinations have
fared better than competitive destinations in the North America or Europe, job losses
and a reduction in business have occurred. Inevitably, if employers are faced with the
need to reduce costs and a more challenging business environment, investment in
human capital is reduced. The challenge is for businesses to maintain employee
motivation in challenging times to ensure the industry remains an attractive career
Data for this study was collected from industry professionals from four South-East
Asian destinations only, thus it is important not to generalize the ﬁndings of this study
to Asia. The small sample size is also acknowledged as a limitation, preventing further
detailed analysis as for certain areas of interest categories of respondents were too
small to perform more advanced statistical tests.
Future research directions
The research presented in this paper provides an overview of career aspects in the
rapidly developing C&E sector. Future research may target other speciﬁc countries
within Asia, in particular China, Japan, and Korea. These countries were ranked among
the top 20 convention destination in 2008 (ICCA, 2008), and their respective capital
cities ranked among the top 20 convention cities in 2008 (ICCA, 2008). It would be of
interest to determine whether career paths and human resource issues share
similarities or display differences in these MICE destinations compared to the
destinations investigated in this research. However, given potential language barriers
and consequent difﬁculties in gathering data, there is likely to be a strong need for data
collection in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean respectively rather than in English.
Another future area of research may be to investigate in more depth the
implications of generational differences in terms of job motivations but also in terms of
potential job challenges. In regard to the latter it is noteworthy that the requirements
on the organization and execution of conventions and exhibitions have already and will
continue to change dramatically in view of the differing characteristics of GenX, GenY,
and the Babyboomers (Davidson, 2009), and insights as to the speciﬁcs of these
changes will assist in the further professional development of the industry in the years
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