Wuhan International Convention and Exhibition Center being used as a hospital.

It was clear two weeks ago that novel coronavirus COVID-19 would be hijacking the headlines this issue of Business Events World. But the extent to which this has indeed happened, and the devastation wrought across the events industry, is extraordinary (see News and Opinions). Apart from the crumbling of monoliths like Art Basel Hong Kong and Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2020, the sight of venues repurposed, not only as we’ve seen before to shelter refugees from hurricanes and bushfires, but now as temporary hospitals for quarantine isolation, is grim beyond words.

If there’s one note of grace from the Almighty this issue, it’s the remarkable private audience granted by Pope Francis in the Vatican to participants of a CEO summit organised by Iceberg partner UFI, the global association of the exhibition industry (see photo below). His Holiness spoke and shook hands with every attendee, and his remarks about the value of exhibitions could not have been more supportive or understanding. The Pope told rapt delegates their events would “contribute to a more just and humane global economy”. The Iceberg has been beating the legacy drum for three years now. How wonderful to know the Holy See also sees it holy!

There are six new Features this issue of Business Events World and on The Iceberg as well. Japan is holding a “smart farming” conference and producing fully autonomous tractors. Prague Convention Bureau’s Ambassador Program is building a technology hub for the Czech capital. In July Copenhagen is expecting a major reproduction and infertility meeting, and laboratory medicine is experiencing healthy growth at Medlab Middle East in Dubai.

Two Features trail the upcoming Meetings Africa 2020. The Chief Executive Officer of South African Tourism, Sisa Ntshona, discusses his country’s business events and knowledge economy. Plus, in the latest “Below the Waterline” podcast, meet Gregg Talley of Talley Management Group and also the African Association Management Company.

In News this issue, coronavirus dominates half the stories. JMIC, the Joint Meetings Industry Council which presents The Iceberg, has released a statement on the crisis, as has Iceberg partner the International Congress and Convention Association, ICCA. Iceberg partner UFI has postponed its Asia-Pacific Conference and Digital Innovation Forum, set to take place early next month in Macau. There are two roundups of the wider cancellations and postponements, one from a geographic perspective and the other listing events. Two massive meetings have also had to be cancelled. Art Basel in Hong Kong, and Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. China has repurposed major venues as temporary hospitals, but British nationals evacuated from Wuhan have also been taken to Kents Hill Park hotel and conference centre in Milton Keynes to be quarantined. Thus far none have tested positive for the virus.

Also in News this issue, Dubai Business Events chalked up 301 successful bids for meetings, conferences and incentives in 2019. Its Al Safeer Congress Ambassadors Programme grew to 342 active members. Glasgow’s Conference Ambassador Programme, the first in the UK, has contributed at least £650 million to the city’s economy since it started thirty years ago. The departure of Edinburgh from Iceberg partner BestCities Global Alliance was “a shock outcome”, says new BestCities MD Lesley Williams, the former Head of Business Tourism at Marketing Edinburgh’s Convention Bureau. Almost half of delegates at business events think face-to-face meetings are “critical”, says a new study from Iceberg partner AIME, the Asia Pacific Incentives and Meetings Event, now underway in Melbourne. As mentioned above, Pope Francis invited one hundred participants of the UFI Global CEO Summit in Rome to a private audience in the Vatican.

There’s still more on The Iceberg itself (View all News). BestCities Global Alliance is marking its 20th year on the back its December Copenhagen Global Forum. Madrid has been announced as destination for the 2020 event, under the banner strapline of “Developing Legacy Together”. An engineer has helped to secure yet another major conference for Auckland, New Zealand. The win is his third in five years! A brand new event for association executives is taking place this June, the Geneva International Association Forum.

In Opinions this issue you can find the full text of Pope Francis’ remarks to attendees of the UFI Global CEO Summit. After disturbing images of burnt koalas and fears of their “imminent extinction”, Paula Blomster of MPI’s European Advisory Council looks at how meetings can tackle climate change. “Conference shame” was the term used in a Bloomberg article about the threat to events of “the Greta effect”. So the sector now needs to get its “game face” on. There are good reasons that meetings are now going meatless, but it can be hard getting attendees to stomach the idea. Homeless hackathons are one way for the industry to tackle this pressing social issue. The MD of organiser Gallus Events offers his personal experience of homelessness outside COP25, the UN Climate Change Conference, in Madrid.

Also in Opinions, three views on coronavirus. Sylvia André is the Vice President for Marketing and Communications at Iceberg partner MCI. She offers four distinct requirements critical to crisis management. As the outbreak isolates China from the outside world, Ping Liu, CEO of destination management company and professional congress organiser China Star, offers cultural views on how her business is dealing with cancellations and postponements. You can read highlights of an Events Industry Council webinar on informed decision-making. As well as these outbreak-specific pieces, German Convention Bureau MD Matthias Schultze also returns to the subject of the multisite BOCOM conference being held this April. The event’s borderless communication approach could perhaps not be more timely.

In Research you’ll find added this issue The IRF 2020 Trends Report just out from the Incentive Research Foundation, and UFI’s Global Exhibition Barometer 24th Edition (February 2020), should Pope Francis require any further reading on the sector.

This issue’s parish notices all relate to coronavirus. As well as the statements posted on The Iceberg above, here are further outbreak advisories from…

Malaysian Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (MACEOS) Part 1, via UFI

Malaysian Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (MACEOS) Part 2, via UFI

Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association (HKECIA), via UFI

Singapore Tourism Board (STB), via UFI

His Holiness Pope Francis with participants of the UFI Global CEO Summit.


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