IAPA AGM 2021 Opening Remarks by our Chair Linda James

IAPA AGM 2021 Opening Remarks by our Chair Linda James


We would like to share the opening speech of our Chair Linda James with you as we feel her words express very well what many of us have been experiencing during the last difficult 20 months, but also reflect the positive attitude our members have been able to sustain against all odds.


“When the global pandemic first hit in February 2020, none of us could have anticipated what lay ahead of us, both personally and professionally. I am aware that some of you may have been deeply personally affected by this global disease – and my heart goes out to each and every one of you. I also think it’s fair to say that all of us have been affected professionally in one way or another.

During 2020, as the pandemic showed no signs of letting up, at IAPA started to wonder how this would impact all of you, our members, your businesses and our community. But we need not have worried. Over these last 20 months, we have seen so many examples of agencies successfully adapting to these changing circumstances:

  • businesses streamlining and restructuring to manage their cost base;
  • agencies reinventing themselves and creating new revenue streams;
  • and endless examples of creative initiatives designed to keep the programme alive if not active.
  • We’ve also seen you adapt to alternative technology and platforms such as ZOOM in order to keep moving forwards despite everything that was thrown at us!

Most importantly we’ve seen the passion for what you do and for what au pair programmes do for young people bring out the fight in you!

Lobbying governments and the EU, talking to the media, exploring every way possible to adapt and change in line with what Covid 19 has forced upon us – and not giving up! So much so that, as we meet here today, I’m really proud to say that we currently still have 160 IAPA members who continue to do business – compared to 173 in 2019 before the pandemic hit. I believe those numbers say it all – and that we should all be proud of how far we’ve come against all global odds.

But clearly this is not over yet! Travel bans and visa constraints still exist, embassies are either partially functioning or sometimes not at all, vaccinations are available to some but not others .. So we clearly have a way to go.

But what we do know, and no doubt your leads stats show this, is that young people still want to travel. Which is why we need to continue to fight on behalf of every single participant to help them fulfil their dream.

On this note, I’d like to make a special request of you all on behalf of myself and the IAPA Board, to seriously consider how you can contribute to the ongoing success of our Association and, in turn, to the future of our industry. IAPA is only as good as its members and, in these tough times, we need to pull together more than ever. We’re delighted that Michael McHugh is standing for election as our Treasurer this year. We would very much welcome Michael back to the Board and we hope you feel the same.

But we do still have a 2nd Board vacancy which sadly no-one has put themselves forwards for at today’s elections. So we have work to do here too. And over the next few months, we will be reaching out to you all to ask for your individual support in working on specific projects which will benefit all members. Plus we’ll be open to chat about the role of an IAPA Board member and the personal and professional benefits it can bring. Our next Board elections will take place at our AGM at WETM IAC in Malta in March 2022.

Finally, as we move towards hearing the last Financial update from our outgoing Treasurer, I would like to express huge thanks and gratitude on behalf of the Board and all of us here to Goran Rannefors who, try as we might to dissuade him, is standing down today as IAPA Treasurer. Goran has served on the IAPA Board for so long we’ve actually struggled to confirm the date he joined us! The earliest Board minutes we can find are from 1998 – so 23 years at least! But what we do know for sure is that Goran has ensured that the Association finances have been extremely ably and carefully managed over many years thus assuring IAPA’s ongoing financial stability. So much so that IAPA has been able to successfully navigate these recent challenging times thanks to a strong and stable balance sheet. And this has enabled us to withstand significant reductions in fee payments during the course of the last two years. We are extremely grateful to Goran for his incredible contribution to IAPA over so many years – and we are going to miss him very much. 


Thankfully we have persuaded Goran to stay on a little longer with us in a different capacity and Patricia will come on to this later in the meeting. Meanwhile, without further ado, I think it’s time to now proceed with our 27th AGM and to talk more about how we rebuild and reshape IAPA’s future ….”