The age of collaboration

UFI's Kai Hattendorf gets caught in a heatwave, and says the exhibitions industry must do more to combat climate change.


As I attended the annual Open Seminar of our colleagues in India a few weeks back, the talks and discussions on stage focused on the global economy, India’s development, and how our industry is progressing there.

Off stage, however, an ongoing heatwave captured the attention of many, as the city experienced temperatures of up to 48°C (around 120° Fahrenheit) – the highest ever measured there, impacting daily life as well as construction work on venues in the region.

I have since encountered the same phenomenon twice more (the hottest days on record in France, and record temperatures at the AIPC Congress in Antwerp). Extreme weather conditions and climate change are impacting the development of markets and economies, and as every industry and individual, we are challenged to react in a constructive way.

For last month’s Global Exhibitions Day, UFI launched a report on best practice cases from our industry around the world, showing how the leading players are working to support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs for short). Many members have contacted us since with their own projects, and we are working on expanding it over the coming months. 

But, this issue – like many others – does not only concern exhibitions, but the wider business events and meeting community. So, a similar project will take place within the Joint Meetings Industry Council (JMIC), a global framework of associations in the meetings industry. There, our UFI framework for this project will be adapted to also cover congress and conference organisers, convention centre operators, and others. As JMIC’s current honorary president, I am happy to see many associations moving in the same direction here.

Beyond sustainability, there are many other areas where we can achieve more when we work together – or where we need to work together to make a difference.  

Therefore, we have talked a lot in recent months with the leaderships of two other global trade associations with whom we have been working together very well already on projects in recent years: AIPC - The International Association of Convention Centres, and ICCA - The International Congress and Convention Association. 

For example, senior UFI representatives are regular speakers and facilitators at the main global events of these two associations. Among other activities, UFI and ICCA organised a joint workshop for 40 members from both associations two years back, where we identified opportunities for collaboration between congress managers and organisers and exhibitions. 

At a time where a vast array of associations are offering services for every corner of the meetings industry, UFI, ICCA, and AIPC have decided to work together more closely for the benefit all of our members – you! As our President Craig Newman put it in the joint announcement: There is a risk of, “competition replacing collaboration as the driving force for industry associations. With our Global Alliance, the three of us choose value for our members, choose collaboration over competition.”

AIPC President (and UFI Board Member) Aloysius Arlando says: “We are all organisations with a global membership and perspective and already complement each other’s activities in various ways. However, as the business models of exhibitions, congresses, conferences, and other types of business meetings evolve, the overlap of global associations servicing the industry is growing even further.”

Over the coming months, we will work to put projects and programmes in place that allow UFI members to benefit from AIPC and ICCA offers and vice versa. Think of it as a kind of little Star Alliance network for the business meetings industry globally. 

UFI’s global reach and success are built on trust and collaboration, also with industry associations. More than 50 exhibition industry associations are UFI members, and they are organised in a special committee, whose leadership sits at the table both in the Executive Committee and the Board of Directors. 

We don’t run national chapters who compete with the national industry associations, but we support the national associations wherever we can to drive growth and development for our industry. This sets UFI apart, and it is the same thinking that will drive the collaboration with AIPC and ICCA. 

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