Bolinger takes reins at PCMA Asia Pacific

Former Melbourne Convention Bureau chief given task of leading business events industry into post Covid-19 recovery; move comes days after Antonio Codinach leaves PCMA

PCMA has announced Karen Bolinger as managing director of its Asia Pacific operations following the sudden departure of Antonio Codinach last last week.

Bolinger, former chief executive of Melbourne Convention Bureau and chair of BestCities Global Alliance, began her new role on April 27, a few days after Singapore-based Codinach left PCMA.

Bolinger will be based in Melbourne and will lead PCMA Asia Pacific through the organisation’s office in Singapore.

Antonio Codinach

Codinach held the role of regional business director since June 2018 when PCMA merged with ICESAP in an acquisition deal struck with Nigel Gaunt, who had created the Incentive Conference and Events Society Asia Pacific five years previously.

The Chicago-headquartered PCMA is linking Bolinger’s retained role to an anticipated recovery of the business events industry in the Asia Pacific region following lockdowns forced by the coronavirus pandemic. 

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“As stakeholders in the global business events industry look towards a post-Covid-19 recovery, we believe that the Asia Pacific region will recover first and that the industry will be substantially changed,” said PCMA president and CEO, Sherrif Karamat. 

“Karen will support PCMA’s APAC growth through her track record of business event industry leadership success and ability to introduce new strategic initiatives in the face of industry and marketplace challenges.

“PCMA is determined to ensure business events are a critical part of the recovery solution in a post-Covid-19 world. And today that solution starts in Asia Pacific,” said Karamat.

Under Bolinger’s leadership, Melbourne grew to be one of the world’s leading cities for business events and conferences. She was seen as pioneering the way in which meetings contributed to a destination’s “knowledge economy” with academics and business leaders playing the role of knowledge ambassadors.

PCMA also highlighted Bolinger’s track record of successfully bringing policymakers, business partners and service providers together to focus on new opportunities.  

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“In light of the current environment we find ourselves in, I’m excited to work with PCMA and the Asia Pacific team to develop a clear pathway of available opportunities to activate the recovery of the business events industry in the APAC region,” Bolinger said.

One of Codinach’s last roles with PCMA was moderating a two-part webinar called China: from Crisis to Recovery on April 14, featuring a total of 11 meetings industry leaders based in mainland China and an expert on the control of infectious diseases speaking from Shanghai.

With a background in education and training, Codinach was responsible for education programmes, client relations and business development among other roles.

Industry leaders in the region told MIX that they were initially led to believe that Codinach’s departure was related to the Covid-19 downturn, so Bolinger’s appointment proved to be another surprise. 

When contacted by MIX, Codinach said he had no further comment only to thank PCMA for his two years with the organisation. He also praised the decision to recruit Bolinger in what was a newly created role.

“Karen has been an amazing advocate for the business events industry and I believe she takes up a completely new position at PCMA Asia Pacific,” he said. 

Bruce McMillan, PCMA’s chief marketing officer, told MIX: “Antonio did great work to get PCMA established in Asia Pacific through a myriad of great partnerships, including our educational leadership role at AIME.

“Enter Covid and the global business events industry is going through an unprecedented reboot. Businesses everywhere are making critical decisions to set themselves up for the recovery. PCMA is no different.

“PCMA believes Covid recovery will begin in Asia Pacific and is investing in new strategies for the next normal for business events in APAC starting right now. Retaining Karen is the first of those critical investments in a new strategy for PCMA in APAC.”


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