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Stand ready to be the driver of recovery

UFI Managing Director, Kai Hattendorf, on how the event industry can help kick-start the economy in a post-pandemic world.

These are truly unique times. Around the world, events are being banned in connection with the current Covid-19 pandemic. The UFI team has been working remotely since mid-March, as are many of you around the world. We are forced to sit still – which is the hardest thing to do for event industry professionals. We want to bring people together – bring industries together – and yet, right now, almost everywhere, we cannot do just that.

Print is not the fastest medium in times like this, so let me use this column today to share some thoughts on how to make the best use of your time right now – both for yourselves and for our industry.

I have read and heard many individual stories from colleagues in various destinations who are using their special skills as events professionals to help their respective neighbourhoods. This is a great way to care for your local community and neighbours, and I want to applaud each and every one of you.

Also, working remotely and not holding events does not mean that, as industry and industry professionals, we do not stay connected. UFI’s social media channels are a good example of that, and I encourage you to connect with us there – you’ll find the links on ufi.org.

These weeks and months of combating the Covid-19 pandemic are impacting businesses everywhere, and our industry is no exception. A strong focus on the work we are doing at UFI right now is therefore industry advocacy. We are doing our part to make every government understand a very simple message: That our industry, the exhibitions and events industry, is critical for any recovery to be successful.

For us to be in a position to kickstart the economy, governments will need to help our industry right now. Without economic assistance, the small and medium-sized companies that are the backbone of vast parts of our industry’s ecosystem will not be able to get through the tough times they are currently enduring. A

t time of writing, the first stimulus packages for exhibitions and events have been launched in Hong Kong and Denmark. Other countries like Germany and the UAE, as well as blocs like the European Union, are introducing programmes to provide support for small and medium enterprises.

As an industry, we operate the meeting and market places for all industries! We are the fastest fast-track to recovery for industries and economies. We bring industries together to do business. We bring experts together to find the best responses to challenges like this. And we connect people and cultures to drive exchange and understanding, which is just as important for our globally connected world to function.

Let’s be realistic: this will not be over in a few weeks’ time -- this will impact economies and societies for some time to come.

As of now – mid March – companies have not been able to secure the tens of billions of orders on tradeshow floors that they usually do. It is hard to appreciate just how huge our meetings industry is – exhibitions alone create a total economic output of US$325bn every year. In March alone, more than 80% of exhibitions in Asia did not take place. Hundreds of exhibitions in Europe have been postponed or cancelled. It is the same scenario wherever you look.

The same goes for other types of events. You are all familiar with these calculations. If you just add up the numbers, the world is set to lose several hundred billion dollars in economic value from cancelled events as we jointly address Covid-19.

It is impossible to say when this outbreak will be over, but the moment that the authorities give the ‘all clear’ we will be ready to open the doors to as many shows, conferences and meetings as absolutely possible, as fast as we can.

We are all in this together, and if we work together then we will prevail, together. We will be a driver of the recovery.

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