Career aspects of convention and
exhibition professionals in Asia
Adele Ladkin and Karin Weber
School of Hotel and Tourism...
of employment opportunities, there is little understanding of careers in the C&E sector
to date, providing a rationale for...
particular person. When individuals are asked about their working lives, the
information they provide can be used to creat...
Career analysis in the C&E industry
Despite the lamented dearth of research following early studies by Montgomery and
The final sample was comprised of 693 convention and exhibition industry
An online survey was conducted betw...
cross-referencing the career profiles with demographic data. Independent sample
t-tests and ANOVA were conducted to examine...
A significant relationship was also found between seniority and gender (x2
¼ 8:75,
df ¼ 1, p , 0.01), whereby males held mo...
route into the industry, with experience being generated in a wide variety of sectors.
The reasons contributing to this ph...
around 37 percent of respondents had relocated to another country to do so and
thereby, further their career. Internationa...
commitment in terms of generations were established by one-way ANOVA (F ¼ 4:41,
p , 0.01). Post-hoc Bonferroni tests point...
“Daily challenges and seeing plans come to fruition and mostly success”.
“Ever-changing working environment and challe...
First, although there are no specific educational qualifications required for the
industry, a degree level education is held...
those who are currently finishing studies and looking to start a career. Although
educational qualifications are non-specific...
and the Babyboomers (Davidson, 2009), and insights as to the specifics of these
changes will assist in the further professi...
Ladkin, A. (1999), “Life and work history analysis: the value of this research method for
hospitality and tourism”, Touris...
UFI (2007), “UFI World map of exhibition venues and future trends”, available at:
Weber, K...
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  1. 1. Career aspects of convention and exhibition professionals in Asia Adele Ladkin and Karin Weber School of Hotel and Tourism Management, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong Abstract 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 Introduction 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 Convention and exhibition professionals 871 Received 14 July 2009 Revised 4 December 2009 Accepted 31 January 2010 International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management Vol. 22 No. 6, 2010 pp. 871-886 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0959-6119 DOI 10.1108/09596111011063133
  2. 2. 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. Literature review 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 IJCHM 22,6 872
  3. 3. 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 strategies. Convention and exhibition professionals 873
  4. 4. 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. Methodology 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. IJCHM 22,6 874
  5. 5. The final sample was comprised of 693 convention and exhibition industry professionals. 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.” Data analysis 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 Convention and exhibition professionals 875
  6. 6. 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 Demographic profile 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). Current employment 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). IJCHM 22,6 876
  7. 7. A significant relationship was also found between seniority and gender (x2 ¼ 8:75, 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. Career paths 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 Table I. Career path by industry sector Convention and exhibition professionals 877
  8. 8. 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 geographical region. 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. Geographic mobility 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 Table II. Career path by level of responsibility IJCHM 22,6 878
  9. 9. 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). Time mobility 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 Jobsa Generation 1 2 3 4 5 GenY 2 1 1 – – GenX 5 3 3 2 2 Babyboomers 8 4 5 3 5 Note: a 1 refers to the current job, 2 to the job prior current one, etc Table III. Median years spent in current and prior job positions Convention and exhibition professionals 879
  10. 10. 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 include: . “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 industries”. . “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”. IJCHM 22,6 880
  11. 11. . “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 expectations. Job challenges 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). Conclusions 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. Convention and exhibition professionals 881
  12. 12. 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 IJCHM 22,6 882
  13. 13. 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 development. 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 option. Limitations 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, Convention and exhibition professionals 883
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  16. 16. UFI (2007), “UFI World map of exhibition venues and future trends”, available at: media/publications. Weber, K. (1999), “Women’s career progression in the Las Vegas casino industry: facilitators and constraints”, Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research, Vol. 22 No. 4, pp. 431-49. Weber, K. and Ladkin, A. (2008), “Career advancement strategies for tourism and hospitality academics”, Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research, Vol. 32 No. 4, pp. 448-66. Wong, S. and Ladkin, A. (2008), “Exploring the relationship between employee creativity and job related motivators in the Hong Kong hotel industry”, International Journal of Hospitality Management, Vol. 27, pp. 426-37. Further reading Arthur, M.B. and Rousseau, D.M. (Eds) (1996), The Boundaryless Career: A New Employment Principle For New Organisational Eras, Oxford University Press, New York, NY. Ladkin, A. and Weber, K. (2008), “Tourism and hospitality academics: career profiles and strategies”, Journal of Teaching in Travel and Tourism, Vol. 8 No. 4, pp. 373-93. Corresponding author Adele Ladkin can be contacted at: IJCHM 22,6 886 To purchase reprints of this article please e-mail: Or visit our web site for further details: