Updated March 14, 2022
While the events industry’s response to Russia's unwarranted attack on Ukraine started out slowly and cautiously, a chorus of organizations have since issued strong public statements and suspended relations with Russia. Among the latest to speak out against the crisis is the International Association of Exhibitions and Events, which suspended both the membership of Moscow's Expo Centre and IAEE's reciprocity agreement with the Russian Union of Exhibitions and Fairs.
"Due to the current and unacceptable realities that are taking place in Ukraine, IAEE is suspending our relationships with these two entities at this time," said David DuBois, IAEE's president and CEO.
The organization joins a growing list of industry groups that have condemned Russia's actions. One of the first to take action was the producers of the IMEX in Frankfurt trade show, who quickly suspended Russian exhibitors from its 2022 gathering just days after the invasion began.
One industry professional is on the ground offering aid to Ukrainian refugees. Pawel Terlikowski, founder of Superexpo.com, has spent the past two weeks driving supplies to Poland's border with Ukraine, and has been shuttling refugees from the border to safety. In a video shared on LinkedIn, Terlikowski documented his efforts and called on everyone in the events industry to donate and support Ukraine in any way they can.
"Right now in Poland, there are more than 1 million refugees from the danger zones of Ukraine. We need your support. We need any kind of help," said Terlikowski in the video. He shared a link to a donation page, where funds will be used to purchase food, medical supplies, personal-hygiene essentials and more for Ukrainian refugees.
Other organizations that have spoken out include the International Congress and Convention Association, which announced in a statement to its members that all planned activities and events in Russia would be cancelled. In addition, Russian members will not be allowed to attend any ICCA events until further notice.
ICCA's board of directors "categorically and unequivocally condemn Russian aggression in Ukraine," per the statement. The organization said is working with its Ukraine members and will donate €10,000 to an agreed-upon humanitarian charity to support Ukrainians suffering from the war.
Destinations International also condemned Russia's attack on Ukraine and immediately terminated the membership of the Saint Petersburg Convention Bureau, its only Russia-based member. The organization said it will not engage in further business in Russia until there is a peaceful resolution to the current conflict.
"Our hearts have been with the people of Ukraine since the Russian government began its unprovoked and unconscionable attack on that nation," read the statement. "We believe that tourism is a bridge that connects people of diverse backgrounds and different cultures; we strive to build a community of destination professionals who believe in goodwill toward all people."
Destination International said it has donated to the World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit organization from celebrity chef José Andrés that is providing food for displaced people in Ukraine, and urged its members to do the same. "We encourage our over 600 members and our partners throughout the world to show their support of the people of Ukraine in any way possible, including making charitable donations to World Central Kitchen or any other organization making a positive impact in Ukraine."
Among the other organizations to speak out is the Society of Independent Show Organizers, which has suspended Russian members from all access to SISO events and activities. The society has also launched a fundraising campaign to support humanitarian efforts in Ukraine.
"This tragic and senseless unprovoked attack by Russia on the people of Ukraine must be condemned by all, and actions that will bring the Russian government to the realization they must stop have to be taken," said SISO CEO David Audrain. "That includes isolating Russia from all commercial activities as quickly as possible."
SISO shared that directive with its members yesterday, along with details about a fundraising campaign to support the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The organization will be seeding the campaign with an initial $10,000. Those interested in contributing can email the organization.
Last week, the Events Industry Council issued a statement strongly denouncing the war in Ukraine and condemning the clear violation of international law. "We are deeply disturbed by the humanitarian crisis unfolding, which will ultimately impact other countries and regions across Europe and are concerned for the safety and well-being of the people of Ukraine," the statement read.
"The military invasion of Ukraine is in direct conflict with the values that all of us who serve the Events Industry Council and our global community passionately believe in, and we strongly oppose any form of violence and oppression that negatively impacts the safety and security of those that work in the events industry across Ukraine, their families, colleagues and indeed all Ukrainians.... We stand firmly with Ukraine and urge all parties to work towards a peaceful resolution," the EIC statement concludes.
Meeting Professionals International denounced the invasion, issuing a statement late last Tuesday and firmly taking decisive action against the aggressors. "Meeting Professionals International condemns the acts of aggression from Russian forces and urges an expeditious end to the conflict with Ukraine. In a show of support for the people of Ukraine, MPI will immediately suspend business with all companies in Russia. In addition, any plans to formalize a chapter in Russia will be paused," read the statement. "MPI is disheartened that an action like this is necessary, yet understands it is critical to ensure these violent acts are met with responsible action to help lead towards a peaceful resolution. We remain concerned for the well‐being of our community and our MPI members in Russia and Ukraine who were already seeking to climb out of the shadow of this pandemic and are now experiencing these unprecedented challenges."
Northstar Travel Group, parent of Northstar Meetings Group, has likewise taken a firm stance against the aggression. "Travel connects us, war divides us," said Tom Kemp, CEO of NTG. "Northstar strongly condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and expresses its support of Ukraine in defense of their sovereign democracy. We stand with other businesses in the travel industry by not engaging in any business with Russian-owned companies until the war in Ukraine is resolved peacefully and the sovereignty of a free Ukraine is ensured."
The Professional Convention Management Association donated $10,000 to the American Red Cross Ukraine Humanitarian Relief fund. The organization conveyed strong support of Ukraine, if not the suspension of any business ties with Russian entities. "Now, more than ever, the world must come together," read a statement from the group. "The unprovoked and unjustified attacks on the people of Ukraine proves that we, as a society, have more work to do. Social injustice — war — has no place, anywhere."
"We support UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ position in his call to end this senseless war," PCMA’s statement continued. "Our global communities must be resolute in driving economic good and to solve complex issues. We stand united against war and acts of evil against innocent civilians. We support people who believe in and live in a peaceful society. Our prayers are with all who are grieving, and it is our hope that peace will prevail quickly. PCMA is committed to contributing to the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund. If you are interested in supporting urgently needed food, water and shelter, please visit the UN Foundation."
IMEX: Setting an Example
IMEX Group CEO Carina Bauer and chair Ray Bloom led the way with their announcement last week. "Sadly, today we have taken the decision to suspend Russian state enterprises from participating at IMEX in Frankfurt 2022, as a direct result of the current political situation," read their statement. "We do this with a heavy heart, understanding that the world is in an unprecedented situation. Our hearts go out to everyone who is affected and especially the people of Ukraine. All of us wish for a speedy and peaceful resolution to this conflict."
told Northstar Meetings Group how IMEX executives came to their decision concerning the Frankfurt event, which will take place May 31-June 2 in Germany. "We, along with the whole world, were
shocked [by Russia's invasion of Ukraine]. But once it did happen, it was
important for us to give clarity — to our community, to the industry, exhibitors
and buyers, and our team — on what our position was. And once we got that
clarity, I think it was important to transparently communicate it as soon as
discussing the events industry's hesitance to comment on the
conflict, Bauer pointed out that IMEX is a private company, while associations have
different drivers, such as board approval. "For other organizations, it might
take longer to work out what the best route is for them. And I respect that. I
do feel for them, because it took everybody by surprise. And I don't suppose
anybody expected to have these conversations this soon."
IMEX’s decision shouldn't have a major impact on the show, according to Bauer, who noted that only a few Russian destinations, cities, convention centers, and other entities owned and run by the state typically participate in the Frankfurt show. The loss of Ukrainian suppliers will have even less of an impact. "It's not a big space that they take, but they have been represented before," noted Bauer. "We were in touch with them about a month ago, and they were really interested in exhibiting. Obviously, that won't happen now."
show also will lose the approximately 200 Russian hosted buyers who usually attend, due
to Germany closing its airspace to any flights from Russia, but Bauer said IMEX
hopes to make up those numbers elsewhere.
Industry feedback to the IMEX decision has been overwhelmingly
positive, as evidenced by comments to the company's LinkedIn post. One commenter called
the move "bold and sends a message to all Russian state apparatus." Others said: "It's
great to see the IMEX team on the front foot, making positive decisions and
leading the way"; and "Good to see our industry take a stance."