By Kai Hattendorf UFI managing director/CEO
This past month I travelled to the US for the first time since November 2019. And while it took extra clearances, and paperwork, and PCR testing to ultimately get to the gate and onto the plane, the journey itself was extraordinarily ordinary. All went smoothly, we departed and arrived on time, the staff was friendly, and the plane solidly booked. Except for the masks that we were all wearing, and other small Covid related adjustments, it was a normal flight.
Travel restrictions are easing, and vaccine and testing certifications will speed this up. The EU Commission is on record saying that fully vaccinated people will be able to fly into EU member states again from the US this summer. Colleagues from the US as well as from Europe and, of course, the MEA region are sharing their flight schedules with us as we prepare for our UFI MEA Conference in person in Dubai at DWTC. As I am writing this, we are a few days out from the event – it will take place after the deadline for this edition of Exhibition World, but watch out for some coverage in the next issue.
This conference in Dubai is UFI’s first on site, face-to-face, in person event again after 15 months. In the US recently, many of our US colleagues re-connected face to face for the first time again. Their number one feedback? “It feels great.” We were reminded as to how much more we “get done” when we get together instead of video-calling each other on Zoom, etc. Where this is not yet possible again – across Asia/Pacific and within Europe – we are running our annual spring conferences as digital only events.
At the same time, the dire developments in India show us yet again that this pandemic is not over, that we cannot let down our guard, and that the road to recovery is not a straight line. So, our advocacy work continues, as does our work sharing good practices and standards around how best to run events right now. Collaboration is and remains key – as the newly released third edition of our Global Good Practices Guidance shows again. On the one hand, we have the willingness of so many members to share their approaches with the industry, and, on the other, we have our collaboration with AIPC and ICCA as three global trade associations serving the business events community.
We are applying that same approach of working together to a new initiative as well, as UFI has joined the US events industry advocacy group Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance (ECA). Just like we are present in Brussels, the seat of the European Commission, through the EEIA partnership, this group of industry associations is setting up an office in the US capital of Washington DC to advocate for our sector. We will do our part as UFI to support them.
In closing, one more update on UFI’s new educational designation, the ‘UFI Certified Professional’ or UCP. We need to reskill, retain, and regain talent for our industry as business kicks back in. Across our spring conferences, we are handing out the first designations to colleagues from around the world who have already completed their curriculums. Congratulations to each and every one of them!
Based on the demand, we have added an additional Exhibition Management School class that will start at the end of June. And, in its latest meeting, the UFI Executive Committee has approved three more educational partners for this programme: AIPC (Belgium), FM Future (UK), and Lippman Connects (USA). We will add their respective courses to our growing educational catalogue.