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ICCA appoints Senthil Gopinath as new CEO with immediate effect

Senthil Gopinath is the new CEO of the International Congress & Convention Association (ICCA), the global group of meetings professionals based in the Netherlands.

Senthil Gopinath

Gopinath’s appointment is the result of a long process of recruitment undertaken by a Brussels-based executive search company following the sacking of Martin Sirk in June 2018, but he was already employed by the association.

He has been the Dubai-based Middle East Regional Director for the past three years but has been involved with ICCA for more than two decades as an employee of Emirates, Kuoni Travel and the Sri Lanka Convention Bureau.

Gopinath said: “I am truly honoured to be appointed for such a prestigious position in one of the global meetings industry’s leading organisations. ICCA has been a family to me for over two decades. I have always cherished my involvement with ICCA and now being at the helm will enable me to listen more closely to our members and key stakeholders, and service them in a more enhanced manner, making ICCA more relevant to the global membership. Together with the ICCA team, we will work on the transformation of ICCA.”

ICCA HQ staff were informed today (Thursday) shortly before a missive was despatched to all 1200-plus members of the organisation.

ICCA president James Rees said: “It was an interesting journey which revealed more about Gopinath than we had previously known and we are delighted with the appointment.”

The appointment is effective immediately and Gopinath will relocate to Amsterdam as soon as possible.

As per ICCA by-laws, the board made the selection in a closed-vote process, with Gopinath winning by majority vote.

“Senthil brings the qualities that we most need in a leader at this juncture,” added Rees. “Throughout his career, he has demonstrated not only that he can establish a vision, but also chart the tactical path to reach that vision, always working from a solid foundation of operational and financial expertise.”

Gopinath’s career in the meetings travel industry spans more than 20 years, with 18 years spent working within ICCA member organisations. He joined the ICCA team in 2016 as regional director of ICCA Middle East (ME). In that role, he has forged new relationships with regional governments and industry partners, and grown ICCA ME membership by more than 80 per cent.

The board noted several of Gopinath’s key career accomplishments, including:

• Elevating meetings and events operations for Emirates Group as its head of business development and operations, making the division one of the largest and most profitable in the region

• Re-structuring and re-strategising the business model of VFS Global a part of Kuoni Travel Group. As vice president – South Asia of VFS Global, growing annual profits exponentially over 60 per cent growth in two years

• Creating a private-public partnership model for the Sri Lanka Convention Bureau as its general manager and CEO, increasing business tourism by 78 per cent and driving a 64 per cent increase in revenue

• Being named one of three finalists for the 2019 Business Event Strategist of the Year award from the Professional Convention Management Association, with the winner to be announced in May.

Gopinath’s selection marked the end of a process that began in October 2018 and drew more than 100 applicants for the position.

Gopinath’s immediate responsibilities will include developing and executing annual business plans, ensuring operational sustainability and careful financial controls, and building ICCA’s global membership and presence with a special focus on developing member services adapted to each of ICCA’s key regions. He will work from ICCA Head Office in Amsterdam and report to the president and board of directors.