Can something please stop the dominoes from continuing to fall?

As I finish up this 75th edition of Business Events World, Iceberg partner IMEX has just reassured its community that “we currently have no plans to postpone or cancel our show despite some major events cancelling across Europe in the past few days.”.

In the past I’ve tried using the visual metaphor of tipping dominoes to illustrate event “impact”. What this industry simply wants now is for something – or someone – to stop those dominoes from continuing to fall.

In News this issue, coronavirus continues to dominate. Two more event titans have tipped over just days before opening, this time due to legal restrictions introduced to tackle the crisis. The Geneva International Motor Show was cancelled after the Swiss government put an immediate ban on large events. The planners pointedly called it “force majeure”, or an unpredictable circumstance that obviates their contractual liability. ITB Berlin, the international travel and tourism trade fair, was also cancelled, the health authority of the Berlin district having required all delegates to prove they had no contact with virus risk areas. Plus, the first IBTM Asia Pacific in Singapore has been postponed. The Iceberg partner’s event will now launch in April 2021.

Indeed, Singapore’s meetings industry has been badly hit by the crisis, with a string of significant association events withdrawing from the city as a result. Hong Kong is to pump HK$1 billion (US$130 million) into its faltering events industry as political unrest and coronavirus take their toll. Hundreds of attendees at a London conference, the UK Bus Summit, were contacted by health officials after a delegate was diagnosed with COVID-19. The Research Division of Iceberg partner the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) is monitoring the status of 1,065 meetings in its Association Database currently scheduled for Asia Pacific during 2020. The results actually show confidence and resilience, but the data dates from February 19th.

Also in News this issue, figures show that Brisbane hosted over 940 business events delivering an estimated AU$351 million to the local economy during financial year 2018-19. Last year the Business Events team at WellingtonNZ won 34 conference bids across a range of industries. The Asia Pacific Incentives and Meetings Event (AIME), an Iceberg partner, opened in Melbourne with a Hosted Buyer Breakfast. Sponsor Tourism New Zealand is planting a native tree for every delegate attending the meal in partnership with a conservation charity. At AIME, the Northern Territory Business Events Fund offered AUS$200 per delegate before May 31st for events staged in the Australian state by the end of June 2021. Plus, the 15th Meetings Africa has just been hosted in Johannesburg at the Sandton Convention Centre, looking forward to Expo 2020 Dubai, at which all 54 of African nations are participating.

There’s still more on The Iceberg itself (View all News). Plans for the new EventCity conference venue close to Manchester Airport have been approved, replacing the existing venue nearby. The ambassador programme Club Liverpool has marked five years with an event at Liverpool Town Hall attended by some of those members who helped attract £70 million of meetings to the city.

There are two new Features this issue. There’s a celebration of the five streams of ICC Sydney’s brilliant Legacy Program, including its focus on cultural diversity. Plus, two excellent videos discuss Dubai’s commitment to association legacies, both at the emirate’s recent Dubai Association Conference, and in the (newly rehoused) Dubai Association Centre.

All twelve Opinions this issue are fresh, and eight cover COVID-19. Before Iceberg partner AIME opened its doors in Melbourne, Event Director Jay Martens discussed coping with the twin crises of Australia’s bushfires and coronavirus. ISE (Integrated Systems Europe) has just taken place at the RAI in Amsterdam. MD Mike Blackman explains which steps the meeting chose to take. Global Pet Expo is taking place in Orlando, despite travel bans preventing nearly 150 Chinese exhibitors from now entering the US. Plus, a lesson from the past on how pivoting to a digital or hybrid approach can be good solution. In 2018, as Hurricane Florence bore down on the Carolinas, the Water Quality Association quickly turned its face-to-face conference into a virtual event.

Cancel, delay or go ahead? Planners of industry events are currently under intense pressure. What next? There’s grim fascination in seeing organisations managing risk before that power is taken away from them. What about the contract and insurance issues? Barbara Dunn is a Partner with Business Law Practice Barnes and Thornburg. Plus, a recent Twitter #Expochat devoted an entire session to the outbreak and its impact on exhibitions. Far more are going ahead than not.

Also in Opinions this issue, Olympia London has introduced new measures to make sure food waste isn’t created, partnering with sustainability advocacy group WRAP. Profit and productivity rank high when buyers of incentive travel experiences list their objectives. But there’s also a powerful narrative emerging around “soft power” issues. Stylianos Filopoulos, a Board Member of ESAE (the European Society of Association Executives), argues that association leaders should not be the sole drivers of legacy for their organisation. Plus, many Destination Marketing Organisations have started to realise the true value of meetings and are tracking their social outcomes. Karen Bolinger, Strategic Advisor at Iceberg partner BestCities Global Alliance, discusses “beyond tourism” legacies of business events.

In Research you’ll find added Beyond Food: Food and Mental Health, the third of a six part series from Lime Venue Portfolio. The Incentive Research Foundation gives us The IRF 2020 Wellness in Meetings and Incentive Travel Study. From the World Health Organization, however, comes the current tablet of stone: Key Planning Recommendations for Mass Gatherings in the Context of the Current COVID-19 Outbreak.

This issue’s parish notices again relate to coronavirus. The Joint Meetings Industry Council, which presents The Iceberg, has just relaunched its website here. JMIC’s COVID-19 resources are here.

Another Iceberg partner has launched a resources page: UFI (The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry).

UFI has also issued a joint statement with SISO (the Society of Independent Show Organizers). Following the postponement of its Asia- Pacific Conference and Digital Innovation Forum in Macau due to the outbreak, UFI has announced new dates of August 26th – 28th.

Finally, the aforementioned IMEX also has a resource page: COVID-19 Update.

There are further outbreak advisories from…

Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) February 8th Advisory, via UFI

Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) February 24th Update, via UFI

Russian Union of Exhibitions and Fairs (RUEF), via UFI

European Major Exhibition Centres Association (EMECA), via UFI

Union Française des Métiers de l’Evénement (UNIMEV), via UFI

Macao Trade and Investment Promotion Institute (IPIM), via UFI

Finally and as always, The Iceberg reiterates its call for you to join our Global Ambassador Program. You can see ambassadors listed on The Iceberg homepage, Ambassadors page, and in Business Events World below. Visit Call for Ambassadors 2019 & 2020 to find out more.

Until the next time, with trepidation…

Robert Coren, Curator of The Iceberg


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