Héliéna Bregand, head of 4EVENT, alongside Pierre-Louis Roucaries, President of Provence Côte d’Azur Events, at a conference held in Cannes last September
Can you summarize the status and role of Provence Côte d’Azur Events?
Héliéna Brégand – Provence Côte d’Azur Events (PCE) is the regional convention bureau, which is an association that brings together more than 200 professionals throughout the region, from Avignon to Menton. All professions are represented: event venues such as convention centers, exhibition centers, but also museums or castles, there are also accommodations, agencies, DMCs, activity providers such as team building, caterers, photographers, or audiovisual professionals. Among our members, there are also all the people in charge of tourism promotion at the regional level, so the Regional Tourism Committee, the tourist offices, the convention bureaus
What about 4EVENT?
Héliéna Brégand – This is an initiative taken by Provence Côte d’Azur Events to work on innovation and the transformation of the events sector. All our members have noted that the sector is facing profound changes, in a context of health crisis. It is therefore necessary to focus on the recovery, the digital and environmental transformation, as everything has accelerated in recent months. We have therefore sought to find the best way to support our members in dealing with these changes at regional level, and to bring them into an innovation ecosystem. 4Event is a major platform for supporting change, to be launched in September 2020, with the first activities developed from January 2021. However, the idea had been brewing for some time: there was already a desire to be part of event innovation platforms. Provence Travel Innovation (PTI) was the initiator of the Challenge TravelCamp Sud, and we joined this efficient and innovative scheme, because it is smarter to work together at a regional level.
How is this collaboration going, especially with start-ups?
Héliéna Brégand – In terms of the start-up recruitment system, we work with PTI, and we are thinking about offering joint support for companies with very specific requests in the events sector, which would be supported by PTI, because sometimes start-ups launch themselves with an economic model based on leisure activities, and as they go along they realise that they could evolve towards events. In this case, it can be useful for PCE to be involved as a testing ground. So we are already working together, in fact. This is also how, at the regional level, we came up with the idea of working with PTI on the recruitment of TravelCamp Sud, since PTI set up this challenge last year for the first time. We chose to work together
e on recruitment, and we will have a promotion from March 2022 with the PACA Est incubator. It was more interesting to source together than to undertake initiatives on our own. It’s more constructive, more interesting to do something together at the regional level.
What does this TravelCamp South Challenge consist of?
Héliéna Brégand – TravelCamp Sud is aimed at anyone who has an innovative project in the field of tourism and events, whether it be technological innovation or product or service innovation. A first selection will take place until December 12, in order to identify the nuggets. These nuggets are invited to challenge workshops spread throughout the country throughout January. This is what is innovative in terms of process: for the first time, the start-ups that are going to integrate incubators, whether PTI or 4Event, will have the opportunity to test their solution before the incubation with socio-professionals. Three workshops will be spread over the territory, plus a final, which will allow us to go to the four main departments: Vaucluse, Bouches-du-Rhône, Var and Alpes maritimes. During these workshops, we invite all the professionals of the leisure and event tourism to challenge the projects and possibly give them advice. At the end of these workshops, we will determine which start-ups have made the most progress, which also allows us to identify entrepreneurial profiles, and not just solutions. When we support a company, what counts is not only the degree of innovation, even though this is important of course. It’s also about seeing how well the project leader can adapt to his environment. This is also what is tested during these workshops, to have quality start-ups. And the start-ups will be able to immediately test the appetite of professionals for their solutions, as in a super beta test to already identify a market, potential obstacles and therefore priorities.
What was the outcome of the first edition?
Héliéna Brégand – According to PTI’s feedback, it was a very good sourcing method. They had some surprises, start-ups that had been selected turned out to be nuggets during the challenge, which showed the project leaders’ ability to adapt and their real motivation. This is also a crucial point in the support, because it is not easy to launch a company: it takes a lot of energy and motivation.
What will happen to these start-ups afterwards?
Héliéna Brégand – The start-ups will be able to join one of the two incubators. The distribution will depend on the theme. 4Event’s objective is to support start-ups in the field of events, while PTI will focus on the travel sector. The other big advantage for the selected start-ups is that they will have access to a system that will enable them to finance their incubation, which is practically paid for thanks to the FIRST fund (Regional Innovation Fund for Tourism Services). I don’t think that any other of this type exists in the territory.
Do you notice an impact of the crisis on the positioning of the start-ups you study?
Héliéna Brégand – There are solutions that have clearly been born out of the crisis, especially for all the start-ups that offer budget optimisation, systems to boost sales or that work on hybrids.
Precisely: how are you positioned on the hybrid?
Héliéna Brégand – Hybrids are a trend, but in the sector there is not really an extraordinary craze. From the organizers’ point of view, hybrid is expensive and implies a total rethinking of the economic model of an event to make it profitable. The shift must be well thought out. There are also other obstacles: at the destination level, events have direct economic benefits for the regions. If the hybrid event attracts fewer participants on site, the destinations are not winners. Today, hybrids remain a temporary solution for many companies to enable them to organise events in a safe environment given the current health conditions. There is a market to be found and we need to think about the economic model. But I am convinced that we must take this turn, because it is an important advantage in terms of competitiveness and visibility, of occupying the field.
Would you say that the fact that you launched 4EVENT in the middle of the crisis gives it a more open positioning in the face of the new challenges of the sector?
Héliéna Brégand – The fact that we were born during the crisis has allowed us to be very agile. During the crisis, we had direct and privileged access to our members, who had less activity, and therefore more time to think together about the services that would best meet their expectations and needs. This is what allowed us to have a real co-construction approach.
territories of innovation and creativity
What are the intrinsic assets of your territory in the field of innovation and events?
Héliéna Brégand – The advantage of our region is our ecosystem. People don’t know enough that the Côte d’Azur and Provence are not just territories of the sea, flavors and colors, but also of innovation and creativity. You just have to look at the dynamics around the French Tech, the nuggets of the territory, our great universities, the very dynamic fields of excellence that are driving innovation. For example, there is an interdisciplinary institute of artificial intelligence in Sophia Antipolis which is weaving synergies with researchers, for example to bring AI into the event industry. There are dynamic people in the region who have a university and technical background that allows us to develop innovations, and we don’t know this enough. The other advantage of the region is its strong event and tourist activity, which allows us to be in contact with professionals. This is also the advantage of Provence Côte d’Azur Events: the reason we chose to work on incubation is not only to support We want to help our members with change and innovation, but also to be a testing ground. In fact, some start-ups have understood this: they have contacted us to be put in direct contact with the market that our 200 members represent.
What is your roadmap for 2022?
Héliéna Brégand – 4EVENT is based on four service components: training, support – including incubation -, resources, and finally an international research chair on risk management. For 2022, the priority is to support recovery and change, which is reflected in the digital and environmental transformation, as well as in the transformation of working models. We need to think about new business models, new ways of working in teams, offering more flexibility to the event industry to manage the uncertainties that persist, and the complications related to recruitment. The stop and go system is complex to manage, it doesn’t allow us to ensure a working capital and sustainability. Many employees have been retrained. The difficulty is also that not all event industry jobs can be “digitized”. It is true that event organisers can work with communication agencies and go hybrid. But activity providers, caterers, transporters and hoteliers are still working on a face-to-face basis. This is where the support for change is crucial, because new growth drivers must be found. The difficulty is that not everything depends on technological innovation. We have to think about the operators in the region, in a pragmatic way.
I’m Michelle, and I love to travel. As a former hotel expert for one of the world’s largest hotel chains, I’ve stayed in nearly every type of room imaginable (including many that were not so desirable!). Nowadays, I am fortunate enough to be able to explore the world on my own terms. From international flights to learning different languages, there is nothing too far out of reach!