Preparing ExCeL London’s transformation into NHS Nightingale.

In issue 74 of Business Events World, published on February 18th, I posted a picture of the Wuhan International Convention and Exhibition Center being set up as a field hospital for COVID-19 patients. I wondered even then whether ExCeL London might come to serve the same purpose. As I now finish up issue 77, the latter venue has just opened to treat patients under the name NHS (National Health Service) Nightingale.

The Iceberg team has a two-decade history with ExCeL. We made videos on site of its original construction, then its Phase II extension. We have attended and covered scores of events ExCeL has hosted and consider it to be a second home. This latest chapter in the centre’s story is sobering and somehow personal.

Other UK venues are also being prepared as ancillary hospitals: Birmingham’s NEC, Manchester Central and Glasgow’s SEC Centre. In the USA, the Javits Convention Center will offer relief to New York hospitals battling COVID-19. Also playing their parts are the Baltimore Convention Center, McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago, the TCF Center in Detroit and the Santa Clara and Los Angeles Convention Centers in California. In Canada’s Calgary, the TELUS Convention Centre is now an emergency shelter. Back in Europe, Madrid’s IFEMA and Fiera Milano City are being used as hospitals as well, plus so, so many others.

In the manner of the public appreciation being shown to health workers all around the world, perhaps it is time also to applaud the meetings industry venues that have shut their doors to events only to open them to victims of the pandemic. We thank you for your service and wish you godspeed in the coming days as you shelter both the sick and those treating, nursing and caring for them. What better legacies can be left by business events?

In News this issue, emergency hospital beds to serve a total of 1,200 patients have been installed in New York City at the Javits Convention Center. ExCeL London’s transformation into NHS Nightingale is complete and the hospital is now open. COVID-19 has decimated many meetings industry suppliers, but one tent rental business has also pivoted from conventions to servicing disaster response. Event cancellations are wiping AU$2.5bn off the Australian economy every month. So say new figures from the Business Events Council of Australia. German trade fairs have already been hit hard. Industry association AUMA has forecast a total loss to the economy of around three billion euros. Iceberg partner UFI has updated its earlier global impact assessment of the crisis. Exhibitions and trade show total economic output is down €81.6 billion ($88.2 billion).

Also in News this issue, COVID-19 cancellations include the largest events of any kind yet. After weeks of speculation, Tokyo’s 2020 Summer Olympics postponed until 2021, the first break in the four-year cycle since World War II. Expo 2020 Dubai is almost certain to be put back a year as well. The final decision is being taken in June. Meetings pivoting to virtual include QODE Brisbane, which chose to partner with YouTube and stream content live around the world. A major meeting of blood doctors scheduled for Milan this July, the 28th Congress of ISTH (the International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis), will be held virtually. The government in Germany has run a hackathon to tackle the challenges of the pandemic. 42,869 took part online in #WirVsVirus (“us versus the virus”). Plus, after the cancellation of IMEX Frankfurt, IMEX Group CEO Carina Bauer has been reassuring the sector that her company is “full steam ahead” for IMEX America in September.

Eleven Opinions this issue are fresh. The pandemic is the greatest challenge ever to face the events industry. Iceberg partner Meetings & Incentive Travel promises the UK sector “to amplify its voice at every turn”. As more events pivot to virtual, there’s advice on giving staff, attendees, speakers and exhibitors the help and training they need to be confident in the space. As the world struggles to contain COVID-19, not only have major conferences and exhibitions in Asia, Europe and America now been cancelled, but Africa is also feeling the crisis. In the wake of all of these cancellations and the resultant economic losses, Founder of The Iceberg James Latham discusses sector recovery. Rod Cameron, the Executive Director of the Joint Meetings Industry Council (which presents The Iceberg), does the same. Venues like ICC Sydney can no longer deliver meetings under government restrictions. This is unprecedented, says CEO Geoff Donaghy. Meeting planners should be donating the leftover food from cancelled events. Food Rescue US works across seventeen states.

Also in Opinions this issue, three articles about associations. Demographic changes are changing how medical associations operate. Managing Director of EASL (home of hepatology) Ben Hainsworth explains. Ambitious destinations target key growth sectors by attracting meetings with knowledge economy assets. Iceberg partner the Global Association Hubs Partnership links up four such cities. GAHP’s International Advisor Martin Sirk has thoughts about how the coronavirus crisis might reshape the role of associations within society. Finally, The Iceberg exists to celebrate legacies of business events. But sometimes legacy opportunities are missed. A 2015 TED Talk on pandemic preparedness by philanthropist Bill Gates is a striking example.

There is just one addition to Features this issue, a video reviewing Iceberg partner AIME (the Asia Pacific Incentives and Meetings Event), one of the last big industry gatherings to run this February before the shutdown.

In Research you’ll now find added both The 2019 Incentive Travel Industry Index, powered by SITE Index, IRF Outlook and FICP, and The IRF 2020 Top Performer Study: What Top Performing Companies Do Differently in Incentives and Rewards.

This issue’s parish notices start with previously published coronavirus resource pages from within our own partner community: the Joint Meetings Industry Council (JMIC), the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI), IMEX Group, the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), Meetings & Incentive Travel (M&IT)Association Meetings International (AMI) and GainingEdge.

Iceberg partner UFI and Explori, are inviting event organisers who have recently cancelled, postponed or gone virtual to participate in an international study. The UFI Latin American Conference is postponed. New dates will be confirmed soon. Also, UFI has launched its UFI Connects online sessions.

Iceberg partner IBTM has launched IBTM Connect – Keep the Conversation Going.

Iceberg partner AIPC (the International Association of Convention Centres) has issued a statement from President Aloysius Arlando.

Iceberg partner GainingEdge has just posted Putting Some Order to the Chaos.

There are further resources at the Events Industry Council (EIC), the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and the Association of the German Trade Fair Industry (AUMA), with outbreak advisories from…

The International Exhibition Logistics Association (IELA), via UFI

The Brazilian Union of Fair Promoters (UBRAFE), via UFI

The Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), via UFI

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

The Association of African Exhibition Organisers (AAXO), 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, stay safe…

Robert Coren, Curator of The Iceberg


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