The call to arms: the beginning of the end?

Easter is over, and signs of resurrection are evident in many global markets, even as we all worry about further waves and variants. But arms are getting jabbed, and the fierce debate over vaccine passports is clearly the approaching battleground. Happy Global Meetings Industry Day!

In News this issue, the Hong Kong International Dental Expo and Symposium was the first return to live trade shows since the fourth wave of COVID-19 shut down the sector there back in November 2020. Almost all restrictions on events in England could lift by June 21st, the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said. State officials in Nevada have relaxed restrictions while raising the capacity limits for larger gatherings. Major events can run on the Las Vegas strip at fifty percent capacity, up to 250 people. Rarely have signs of demand been more welcome than Iceberg partner IMEX’s announcement of the first exhibitors at November’s IMEX America, which will open in its new Las Vegas home, Mandalay Bay. The GSM Association is intending to welcome 50,000 attendees to Barcelona during Mobile World Congress at the end of June. Every delegate on site has to provide a negative COVID-19 test every three days. Plus, two significant events point to longer term confidence. The 2022 World Congress on Railway Research will take place at ICC Birmingham, following a global bid process. Birmingham is a key UK railway hub. The European Society of Cardiology has said that its ESC Congress, the world’s largest event for heart specialists, will be back at ExCeL London in 2024.

Also in News, three event industry associations, AIPC, UFI and ICCA, have published a guide on how event venues can successfully be used as temporary vaccination centres. The Future Meeting Space innovation network of the German Convention Bureau and the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO has presented its latest research study. The main findings highlight the relevance of events in the communications mix of organisations. A new report from Iceberg partner GainingEdge names London the intellectual capital of the world. But the UK city could attract even more meetings by better “harnessing” potential congress ambassadors. Meanwhile, Glasgow says it has secured 28 new conferences during the pandemic, which could draw £84 million to the city. Glasgow Convention Bureau worked on the bids together with its academic conference ambassadors. The key role ambassadors can play in a city’s fortunes has also been highlighted by Dubai Business Events, which has won several international association events the same way.

All twelve Opinions articles this issue are fresh. The trends expert Daniel Levine and special events company owner Kevin Molesworth offer two different perspectives about the sector’s recovery. There are also views on the positive side of disruption from Iceberg partner Maritz Global Events’ recently held NEXT conference. Juliano Lissoni, the Managing Director of MCI Group in Canada, makes a further and more academic argument for face-to-face meetings, the Iceberg partner chief shaping his case around our innate “need to meet”. Just under three quarters of scientists want virtual meetings to continue, according to a new poll conducted by Nature. But the survey respondents also gave compelling reasons for a balance of both on site and online formats. Some destination marketing organisations have been able to keep association conference business going through the pandemic. Others have faced severe budget cuts, as Sarah Fleming of Sarah Fleming Associates explains. The UK government has announced a timeline for reopening business events. But Meetings Industry Association Chief Executive Jane Longhurst thinks UK event professionals need to manage their expectations.

Also in Opinions, the Business Council of Australia has reported a loss of AU$35 billion in direct expenditure for Australia’s economy. But what about pandemic damage to the country’s knowledge economy, asks ICC Sydney CEO Geoff Donaghy? The Cape Town International Convention Centre’s annual general meeting was the occasion to take a look back on a year that brought massive challenges and opportunities. Since the start of the pandemic, the Scottish Event Campus has supported health services in the fight against COVID-19. SEC Director of Operations Mark Laidlaw describes the teamwork involved. Finally, views from three major industry events, one just held and two still to come. As well as around 3,000 delegates taking part online during PCMA Convening Leaders 2021, 300 more joined in person at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. Organisers worked closely with the venue and the Singapore Tourism Board to put protocols in place like rapid antigen testing. Proclaiming that the industry is sick of virtual events, Group Chairman and Founder of Iceberg partner IMEX Ray Bloom has reaffirmed the signature trade show IMEX America will take place as planned this November. Finally, organisers of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona are counting on a comeback, and have booked their event to resume in late June.

In Features this issue, how the Japan Convention Bureau is looking beyond the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo towards Expo 2025 in Osaka. Plus, as the fifth running of “Incredible Impacts” is opened for submissions by Iceberg partners the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) and BestCities Global Alliance, 2020’s three winning associations and their inspiring meeting legacy projects are profiled in three video presentations.

In Research you will find added PCMA’s COVID-19 Recovery Dashboard for February. PR agency Davies Tanner has published It’s Time – A Global Report on Destination Marketing and Communications. Three documents mentioned earlier are also fresh. There is Future Meeting Space – The Future Role and Purpose of Business Events from the German Convention Bureau. GainingEdge released Leveraging Intellectual Capital. AIPC, ICCA and UFI have published Convention and Exhibition Centres as Temporary Vaccination Centres. The latter G3 trio has also released Version 3 of Good Practice Guidance: Addressing COVID-19 Requirements for Re-Opening Business Events.

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), the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), plus publications Meetings & Incentive Travel (M&IT)Association Meetings International (AMI)Conference & Meetings World, Conference NewsExhibition WorldExhibition News and ASAE’s Associations Now Today’s Coronavirus Tracker.

There are association resources aplenty at the new website of Iceberg partner Global Association Hubs, including a Free Virtual Meetings Guide made available by Julius Solaris of, and COVID-19 advisories from the four GAH destinations: Brussels, Dubai, Singapore and Washington DC.

UFI has launched the UFI Certified Professional designation, expanding on existing UFI programmes and bundling global and local education for both members and non-members. UFI has announced an agreement with Eventmaker, which is becoming a dedicated software provider of the association. UFI President Anbu Varathan has posted a message for February and March.

The European Exhibition Industry Alliance has welcomed the European Council plan to develop digital vaccination certificates, and called upon EU Tourism ministers to safely restore travel in a coordinated approach. The EEIA has also welcomed the European Commission’s legislative proposal to create a Digital Green Certificate to resume safe travel in the EU, and called upon the European Parliament and Member States to ensure quick approval and technical implementation.

The trade fair industry in Germany has demanded a commitment to restarting one year on from the first exhibition cancellations. Part of the restart is to reclassify exhibitions as business platforms, in accordance with the decision of the federal and state governments on May 6th 2020.

The IMEX Group has partnered with award-winning creative agency Smyle to produce a series of digital activations for the global business events community leading up to IMEX America in November. The full programme, which will run between May and September, will be announced soon.

Reed Exhibitions has postponed the inaugural edition of IBTM Asia Pacific in Singapore to April 5th and 6th 2022. The event was originally due to be held at Marina Bay Sands Singapore on April 13th and 14th 2021, but in November organisers announced new dates of June 8th and 9th 2021.

IBTM Events has also launched IBTM Wired, a four-day online meeting for event professionals taking place from June 28th to July 1st 2021. The event will offer one-to-one business meetings, networking sessions and live and on-demand education. On each day of the event, IBTM Wired will showcase a region’s business meetings and events offering and include industry insight and expert opinion from event professionals representing the region. You can find more information on IBTM Wired here.

Iceberg partner European Cities Marketing has held Exploring Your DMOJO, including a contribution from Iceberg founder James Latham. It also held its first ECM mentor Programme Hackathon. The winning project used the example of an automotive company launching a new electric car during an online event. Attendees could virtually discover a destination in real time while driving the new car. President Petra Stusek, also Managing Director of Ljubljana Tourism, was re-elected for two years during ECM’s annual general assembly, which took place online this year.

Iceberg partner BestCities Global Alliance has posted about Copenhagen Legacy Lab, also an Iceberg partner. Wonderful Copenhagen has advanced the conference legacy movement by hiring Annika Rømer as Senior Manager of Copenhagen Legacy Lab. BestCities has also announced new appointments. Kit Lykketoft of Wonderful Copenhagen Convention Bureau is the new Chair of the BestCities Global Alliance Board. She takes over from Corne Koch who has completed her two-year term. Dr Edward Koh of Singapore Exhibition and Convention Bureau takes on the new role of Incoming Chair and Julia Swanson of Melbourne Convention Bureau is the new Treasurer.

BestCities also posted about its member destinations listed in Iceberg partner GainingEdge’s first annual report on Leveraging Intellectual Capital of convention destinations, based on an analysis of international association leadership.

To add to its Boardroom MiniCourses, the online learning site full of short, high-quality videos, Iceberg partner Boardroom has recently launched #Roadmap2030. A progressive and future-focused community and learning forum for associations, #Roadmap2030 is now live. Register here for this pioneering initiative of Boardroom and digital innovation agency Bond.

International Confex will now take place on June 22nd and 23rd 2021 at ExCeL London, organiser Mash Media has announced. Originally, the Iceberg partner’s show was due to take place in March 2021 but back in November organisers postponed it to May.

Mash Media also held its inaugural Digital Event Awards (DEAs) on March 18th at Aztec Studios, where 21 winners were announced from a shortlist of hundreds of entires. The free-to-attend event celebrated a range of categories including awards ceremonies, webinars, training programmes, conferences, exhibitions, festivals and charity events.

Iceberg partner GainingEdge has posted the advisories COVID-19 and Destination PromotersPutting Some Order to the ChaosWhat to Ask Associations Beyond “Will You Be Rebooking?”Partnerships and Collaboration: Now Even More Essential, and Building Confidence with Your Stakeholders, plus insights Tracking the Return of the MICE Events Sector in a COVID-19 WorldThe MICE Sector in a COVID-19 World – Lockdown, Transition, New NormalTracking the Return of the MICE Events Sector in a COVID-19 World – Part 2, and “How Accessible is Your Association?”, plus Bulletin: COVID-19 Issue #1, Issue #2, Issue #3, Issue #4, Issue #5, Issue #6Issue #7, Issue #8, Issue #9, Issue #10, Issue #11, Issue #12Issue #13 and Issue #14.

GainingEdge has launched GainingEdge Analysis & Research (GEAR) to provide research in areas like destination competitiveness. GEAR was inspired by GainingEdge’s International Convention Destination Competitive Index, and future studies aim to “fill a research gap in relation to both the convention industry and the association community”, GainingEdge CEO Jon Sivertson said.

GainingEdge has announced a partnership with New York-based Arena Destination Marketing to help international destinations secure US convention business. The new agreement will simplify contact between convention owners, proposed destinations and all decision-makers involved.

Iceberg partner Talley Management Group recently announced a reorganisation that positions client-facing staff with colleagues who oversee organisations within the same industry or field. The move involves the promotion of four senior team members.

Iceberg partner Positive Impact Events is running its “Participate” campaign. Sign up to receive resources on the role of events in achieving Uniited Nations Sustainable Development Goals and to help create a climate action framework for the sector. There is a great video here. There’s more on the climate action framework in association with the UN Climate Change Secretariat – plus another video – here. Registration has opened for Explore #4: Earth Day, on Thursday April 22nd, and for Explore#5: International Day of Peace on Tuesday 21st September.

Iceberg partner the Global Destination Sustainability Movement has announced that Austria’s Tirol, Sweden’s Skellefteå, Spain’s Valenica and Bilbao, and Estonia’s Tallinn have all joined the GDS-Index, the benchmarking tool measuring the sustainability performance of destinations.

The GDS-Movement’s Guy Bigwood also gave the keynote address at Sustainability Now!, an event organised by Iceberg partner Meetings and Incentive Travel. Delegates from across the industry generated and discussed over eighty ideas for impacting sustainability in the sector.

Iceberg partner AIPC (the Association of International Convention Centers) has announced it plans to hold this year’s AIPC Academy from October 3rd – 8th in Dolce la Hulpe, the heart of the ancient Sonian Forest, outside Brussels. The AIPC Academy is a week-long, educational immersion that covers all key areas of centre management and operations.

Iceberg partner ASAE’s former leader John Graham IV, who passed away last year has posthumously received one of the industry’s highest honours. Graham was among the latest figures to join the Events Industry Council’s Hall of Leaders at EIC’s 2020 Global Awards Virtual Celebration.

There are extensive further COVID-19 resources at the Events Industry Council (EIC), the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), the Association of the German Trade Fair Industry (AUMA)Meetings Mean Business and Meeting Professionals International (MPI). Northstar Meetings Group has posted a running list of New Dates for Events and Conventions Postponed Due to Coronavirus.

The UK’s NHS Nightingale hospitals are to be decommissioned at the end of April, NHS England has confirmed. Five of the seven Nightingale hospitals were constructed at prominent event venues, including ExCeL London, the NEC, Manchester Central, Harrogate Convention Centre and UWE Bristol Exhibition and Conference Centre.

Edgbaston Stadium has announced that its Exhibition Hall is being transformed into an NHS COVID-19 vaccination centre. London’s Business Design Centre has also been confirmed as a vaccination centre. The venue is expected to remain so until the end of Spring, with an option to extend.

Following the UK’s announcement of a new timeline for reopening business events – with all events open from June 21st – several sector organisations have reported healthy interest from their clients. Etc. venues reported it received £2 million worth of event enquiries within 24 hours of the prime minister’s announcement, on February 22nd. Taylor Lynn Corporation says it has seen over £1.5 million worth of new enquiries and tenders, and many clients rebooking postponed events. Since the roadmap announcement the company also reports a surge in large event enquiries for Q1 2022. Milton Keynes-based Julia Charles Event Management reported a 41 percent increase in corporate enquiries, worth a potential £420,000. Creative agency Orange Door has seen a surge in corporate enquiries, but says virtual will remain a strong player. Venues have seen a 294 percent increase in enquiries since the announcement, with some seeing increases as high as 550 percent. Wyboston Lakes Resort has announced that interest in booking meetings, events and training is building momentum. In the three weeks since the roadmap announcement, the sales team received 96 enquiries for new events worth almost £1.8 million, the majority for 2021. Brands are “desperate” to get back to live events as they deliver the better return on investment, said the Managing Director of experience agency George P. Johnson, Jason Megson.

Now in its 28th consecutive year, the UK Conference and Meeting Survey (UKCAMS) will this year focus on the value and volume of the market and the performance of meeting venues. It will also highlight key market trends identified by venues and calculate the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Further details of the research are available here and the survey itself is available here.

Research conducted by Meeting Allstars on the effect of the pandemic on employment in the events sector has shown 29 percent of respondents looking for new roles due to redundancy. Of these, 40 percent are looking outside the events industry and outside the wider hospitality business. The research suggests that the migration of talent in the industry following redundancy could lead to a prolonged recovery period.

PR agency Davies Tanner has launched the second stage of its research to provide the business events sector with accurate and up-to-date intelligence. Complete the survey here.

The Meetings Show will take place on September 30th and October 1st 2021 at ExCeL London. Following the success of its virtual format in 2020, the event will be delivered as a hybrid format to allow planners unable to attend in person to interact with the show’s exhibitors, education programme and networking opportunities.

Carlo Zoccali has been confirmed as the new venue director at Farnborough International Exhibition and Conference CentreZoccali has taken over from Michael Watton, who announced his early retirement in February.

London & Partners has provided an update on new hotels entering the market and a look at venues which have used the downtime to refurbish. The events industry is worth £23 billion to London’s economy and is the largest contributor to the UK’s overall £70 billion sector value (figures pre-COVID).

London-based virtual events platform Hopin has raised an additional $400 million funding, the company has announced. This follows the raising of $40 million last June and $125 million in November. Hopin, founded in 2019, has grown from six employees to more than 400 since the start of 2020 and now boasts over 80,000 user organisations.

English Core Cities has launched Hybrid Events Solution UK (HESUK). A coalition of the convention bureaux for Birmingham and West Midlands, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, NewcastleGateshead, Nottingham and Sheffield, English Core Cities has created the initiative to provide a single point of contact for event organisers looking to organise national and regional conferences.

Meanwhile, Bristol, Bath and the surrounding area will now be represented by a new regional convention bureau: Meet Bristol & Bath. The new CVB is building on the existing Meet Bristol Convention Bureau and will concentrate on attracting conferences and types of business events to the area.

Wolverhampton in the West Midlands has said it wants to become an “events city” under a five-year plan to boost the economy, create new jobs and build a cultural reputation. The city council said the strategy aims to attract inward investment as well as increasing employment, skills and volunteering opportunities.

Stress Matters has partnered with the University of Hertfordshire to carry out a wide-ranging survey on event professionals’ wellbeing. The research aims to reach respondents from across the industry to note changes in attitudes and approaches to wellbeing.

VisitScotland Business Events has launched its “Journey to Change” campaign, which aims to showcase “how business events can drive social and economic transformation”. Journey to Change is aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and aims to demonstrate the impact that business events can have in tackling global challenges.

Glasgow Convention Bureau has announced two major upcoming conferences, having worked closely with the city’s academic Conference Ambassadors to secure such events. The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Europe Annual Conference will take place in August 2022 at the Scottish Event Campus, drawing about 1,200 delegates. The bi-annual AMA SERVSIG Conference is to be held in the city in June 2022 and will welcome 250 delegates to the University of Strathclyde Technology & Innovation Centre.

The Convention Centre Dublin (The CCD) has announced the appointment of Julie O’Neill as Non-Executive Chairperson of the company. The new appointment follows the announcement in January that Dermod Dwyer was to step down as Executive Chairman after a 23-year tenure.

Registration for associations is now open for the much-anticipated European Association Summit. Organised by, the online event will take associations into the future with topics which include business planning and association models.

With a focus on collaboration, seven convention bureaux representing the cities of Florence, Gothenburg, Ljubljana, Lyon, Rotterdam, Salzburg and Valencia have joined forces to create the EU CVB Network. The network was formed with a belief that by working together and sharing knowledge, experience and best practice, both the destinations and their clients would benefit.

The European Society of Association Executives (ESAE) has announced fourteen online events under the general theme “Agility Beyond Disruption”. The sessions cover a wide range of topics on different facets of managing an association.

Rimini will host a major food science congress in 2024. More than 1,800 delegates are expected to attend the 22nd biennial IUFoST World Food Congress, which is being held in Italy for the first time.

The Greek Tunneling Society (GTS) has been chosen to host the World Tunnel Congress 2023 (WTC2023) in Athens, after a secret ballot during the General Assembly of the International Tunneling and Underground Space Association (ITA – AITES). The event will take place in May 2023 at Megaron Athens International Conference Centre, attracting around 2,500 delegates from all over the world.

Associations in Africa are encouraged to participate in the development agenda of the continent. The best of their efforts will be rewarded at the inaugural Associations Advance Africa Awards, a competition launched by the African Society of Association Executives. Associations are invited to submit entries by April 30th 2021. The ceremony will be on September 24th during the 3rd AfSAE Africa Association Summit in Kigali.

The management of the FIEXPO Latin America meetings industry show, in conjunction with the Colombian authorities, has announced a decision to move the event from June to new dates straight after the planned International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) Congress in Cartagena in October. FIEXPO will now run October 27th to 30th 2021, after ICCA (October 24th to 27th), at Las Americas Convention Center in the Colombian coastal city.

The Seoul Convention Bureau has launched a virtual team building programme, the Virtual Seoul Playground, to transform the attractions of Seoul’s meetiings industry into digital experiences. The initiative allows participants to choose from a range of avatars in traditional Korean clothing, then work together in several cooperative games.

The Bali Nusa Dua Convention Centre is another venue recently repurposed for COVID-19 vaccinations. A collaboration between the Indonesian government, Grab Indonesia and Good Doctor, the venue was used for vaccination of about 5,000 Balinese tourism and public transportation stakeholders.

The Business Events Council Malaysia (BECM) has conducted a survey among venues which found that all had experienced at least an 85 percent decrease in events resulting in a plunge of over 75 percent in overall revenue compared to 2019. BECM Chairman Alan Pryor has asked the Malaysian government to continue supporting the industry by restarting a dialogue on how both parties can help the country’s recovery plan and revive the business events sector.

Melbourne Convention Exhibition Centre (MCEC) has seen a return to in-person exhibitions for the first time since COVID-19 restrictions came into effect last year, with The Gift & Lifestyle Fair. MCEC is already able to host events at up to 75 percent capacity per event space, with a maximum of 5,000 attendees.

After a successful second half of 2020, Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre (BCEC) managed to start this year just as well, with events already piling up. BCEC General Manager, Bob O’Keeffe said “Based on current bookings and the success of our February events, although not yet reaching event numbers of past years, we are cautiously optimistic that the industry is in the early stages of a post-COVID recovery and BCEC is one of the best placed venues in the country to take advantage of the improving business environment”.

The head of an Australian convention bureau has told event organisers to get used to the “new normal” of lockdowns and border controls and to find ways to “work around them”. Damien Kitto, CEO of Adelaide Convention Bureau (ACB), was confirming that business events showcase Destination South Australia would go ahead as planned, despite a lockdown in Perth.

ChristchurchNZ Convention Bureau has announced its winning of the next International Conference on Human-Agent Interaction (HAI) to be held in December 2022. 200 experts in computer science, psychology, robotics and design from around the world will gather at at the University of Canterbury to discuss how people interact with robots and virtual characters.

Australia and New Zealand have honoured their most influential association leaders. Judges for The Australasian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE) selected thirteen “Association Influencers for 2020” from a group of 44 peer-nominated professionals. The list included Andrew Hiebl, CEO of the Association of Australian Convention Bureaux.

Until the next time…

Robert Coren, Curator of The Iceberg


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