IACC Americas Knowledge Exchange Nearly Back to Prepandemic Levels

A food-waste program won an innovation award, and the champion of the senior Copper Skillet cooking competition came from the Babson Executive Conference Center.

IACC Americas Knowledge Exchange took place in Durham, N.C. Photo Credit: Raynor for Adobe Stock

Nearly 200 attendees gathered at the International Association of Conference Center’s Americas Knowledge Exchange, held April 3-5 at the JB Duke Hotel in Durham, N.C. Attendance was slightly below 2019 levels, when the association hosted 250 people in Toronto.

IACC CEO Mark Cooper expects numbers to return to normal in 2024.

"I think some of our properties are not quite fully staffed, so they’re still having to manage very busy operations. Instead of releasing three staff [to attend] in the past, you might see one or two," Cooper said. "Next year I hope we surpass that and we go into growth. I think by that stage our membership will be fully staffed."

Education sessions included a keynote by Dr. Amy Climer on how to lead creative and innovative teams, as well as breakout sessions on preventing food waste, enhancing guest experiences through event technology, creating a more inclusive workplace and how a recession will impact travel.

The event also included a preconference study tour of local properties, such as the Rizzo Center, the Carolina Inn, the Unscripted Durham and 21c Museum Hotel Durham.

IACC’s Industry Awards

At the annual awards dinner, Jessie States, vice president of the MPI Academy, received the IACC Award of Excellence, and TJ Fimmano, general manager of Flik Hospitality, won the Mel Hosansky Award. 

One of the afternoon’s breakout sessions was the Americas Innovations Workshop, where 10 industry professionals pitched their venues’ solutions, from food waste to event technology. The champion was Simon McMahon, director of operations at Wyboston Lakes Resort in the United Kingdom, where the property plants a tree for every night that a guest opts out of housekeeping. So far, 5,000 trees have been planted. Also at the property, excess food is turned into snacks and placed in a public refrigerator for guests to enjoy, while the rest of the food waste is composted and used as soil for the trees.

The winners of the Copper Skillet, the group's signature cooking competition that took place earlier in the day, were also announced. Katie Keith from Deloitte University was the victor in the junior division, and Nicholas Eltz from the Flik Hospitality Babson Executive Conference Center, took home the gold – or, should we say, the copper – in the senior division.

Finally, Cooper revealed the date and location of next year’s IACC Americas Knowledge Exchange: April 18-20, 2024, at Verizon the Ridge, in Basking Ridge, N.J. The private hotel serves as a conference center for Verizon events.

"It is there solely for the events of Verizon... and they are proponents of good event technology," said Cooper. "[Attendees] are going to see some more innovations, more technology, and investment in the public areas and guest rooms."