New Directions Edward Nielsen's transition to his post at the International Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus is a natural one. Nielsen became the association's president and CEO in January, and comes to the IACVB from the Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians, where he was executive vice president and CEO.

One of Nielsen's first tasks has been to formulate a state of the organization report for IACVB's board of directors, addressing strategic alliances, financial growth, leadership development, and staff development. Nielsen says the association, in the wake of former president Karen Jordan's tenure, is now solvent and entering a growth phase. He calls Jordan a "major stabilizing force" for an association that has had five CEOs in about four years, and whose most senior staffer has been with IACVB about three years.

The Corporate Mandate In part, it is the lack of leadership continuity that has caused the IACVB to ignore the corporate market, says Nielsen. He admits that IACVB's past emphasis on corporate collaboration "can best be described as spotty. But there may be nothing more to that than simply not having thought about it." Nielsen intends to change this benign neglect into a working partnership.

"The corporate market is extraordinarily important to us," he asserts. "One indication of that is the keynote speaker who addressed the IACVB annual meeting in July. Ron Evans, a senior partner of Kepner-Tregoe in Princeton and co-author of You Win, How the Best Companies Think, talked about the parallels between companies and non-profits and how non-profits can learn better business practices from the corporate world."

Nielsen believes that creating new alliances will strengthen the IACVB. He wants to see the association reach beyond its traditional alliances with hospitality partners to also include technology companies. "The IACVB is represented in 31 countries and we have unrealized ambitions for growth internationally," he comments. "Why wouldn't we want to explore an alliance with Microsoft to use CVBs and the Internet as the world's international link for any form of travel?"

CVBs can also be a valuable resource for corporate meeting executives who are "under fire to do more with less," says Nielsen. "You can use the CVB to nail down a venue, put out an RFP [request for proposal], or review possible meeting sites on the Internet."

Nielsen believes that the industry needs more "general collaborations" in such areas as education, leadership development, and database management. Further, "we need to be able to speak with a more uniform voice on all aspects of the travel industry. And there is a need for more standard data relative to industry research; that lack [of data] is a problem because it inhibits us from speaking with a single voice."

Education is another major concern for Nielsen. "When you look at change--and the industry will continue to undergo change--one of the few vehicles that gets you through is education," he maintains. "Acting as a forum to help unlearn, re-learn, or just acquire new skills is one of the things you will see the IACVB doing."

Nielsen believes that the IACVB has "an enormous and completely unrealized potential for doing more. The association needs to be a bellwether to inform people of what may be out there--sometimes provoking our members not so much with what they want, but with what they need."