Officials at last week’s Meeting Professionals International Professional Education Conference-Europe in Davos, Switzerland, announced a year of growth for the association’s European arm. And in an interview at the conference, MPI Chairwoman and Maritz Travel Co. CEO Christine Duffy, said the association’s new strategic direction, announced last month when CEO Colin Rorrie stepped down, could involve steps that will make the association even more global, such as expansion into Asia.

Other possible new directions include nontraditional ways of tapping into corporate support, such as sponsorships, and holding events beyond PEC-North America, PEC-Europe, and the World Educational Congress, such as sector or regional conferences.

MPI announced the formation of a chapter in Spain, after a team of Spanish meeting professionals had, within a period of just seven months in late 2005 and early 2006, recruited the required 50 members. It is MPI’s 67th chapter worldwide, and its 11th in Europe.

During the general session on March 26, MPI European Council President Caroline Hill also told delegates that the number of European MPI members grew rapidly over the previous year, with membership surpassing 1,550, well above the projected growth estimate of 1,400. And the MPI Foundation Europe Capitol Campaign, launched in December 2004 and ended with the Davos meeting, exceeding its goal of $606,000 by reaching the $727,000 mark.

While MPI used PEC-Europe to officially kick off its new Member Solutions program for European members, a complementary service that has yet to be rolled out got a lot of attention. The online CultureActive Tool, intended to help develop successful intercultural relationships and overcoming cultural differences, will provide MPI members with feedback on the personal and business traits of more than 60 cultures. Duffy told a March 27 press conference that rollout of the CultureActive Tool has been put off until later this year so as not to conflict with the launch of Member Solutions.

During the meeting’s general session, Duffy reassured European members that the sudden departure in March of former MPI President and CEO Colin Rorrie before the expiration of his contract represented a decision by the MPI board of directors to go in a different strategic direction, which she said was not uncommon within the American business culture.

In a later interview Duffy acknowledged that many MPI members in the U.S. had been “surprised” by the suddenness of the change at the top. “During our discussions with Colin in Orlando [where the board of directors met in February] everything was kept quite confidential, as it should have been,” Duffy said. “So in an industry in which everybody usually knows about things days before they are announced, it probably did come as something of a surprise when we made our announcement.”

Duffy again stressed that Rorrie’s departure did not represent MPI’s dissatisfaction with his job performance. In fact, Duffy said, MPI’s successful completion of several initiatives such as Member Solutions during Rorrie’s tenure contributed to the surprise members experienced when Rorrie left MPI.

“Everyone liked Colin, and MPI has been very successful, but we can’t sit around just patting ourselves on our backs,” Duffy said. “In making this change, we had to ask ourselves what MPI needs to look like in three or five years.”