Dear UFI community,

Four years ago, in March and April, Europe went into lockdown as COVID shut down public life – and our industry. In the past few days, I have been following a number of media reports and expert reviews on what we all have learned from the pandemic: how countries and societies managed to get through the waves of infections, how industries dealt with it and recovered, what we have learned from it, and what changes it has brought.

Looking at our industry, we have emerged from these dark months and years stronger than before economically. Our industry has again proven to be a “comeback kid”; our business model has been validated beyond any doubt. Beyond that, we have experienced and learned about the positive power of collaboration across our industry. Our long-term data from the barometer shows that you, our industry leadership, are working together on industry issues more than ever before.

We also see this in the ecosystem of associations serving the exhibition industry worldwide. We are proud to have around 70 national and international exhibition and event industry associations as UFI members. They have their own Associations Committee in our organisation, with the elected leadership of this group having seats on both UFI’s Executive Committee and the Board of Directors. This is both an example of how deeply collaboration is enshrined in our DNA at UFI and an asset for our industry.

When COVID struck, based on these networks and connections, we could quickly provide daily updates on industry developments worldwide (they make for sombre reading today; I just revisited a few of these updates). We could identify national decisions that benefited our sector, and we could share them globally (like Germany’s decision to segment exhibitions as “controlled gatherings” versus “mass gatherings”). We could describe best practices from our organiser and venue members and share them with this global network of associations for advocacy action on the national and local level (the “All Secure” Guidelines, frameworks on how to run your venue as a vaccination centre, and others).

Just as this collaboration helped all of us in times of crisis, it is equally beneficial, albeit less visible, in other times. Without this network and structure, there would be no “Global Exhibitions Day” (mark your calendar for June 5!), we would likely not have a seat at the table at the UNFCCC or ISO, and we would struggle to work jointly on the big advocacy issues of our industry, from global accessibility to visa issues, from industry positioning to favourable regulatory frameworks for business events.

Last but not least, these collaborations and connections helped me personally – like many, many others – to get through those difficult times in the midst of the pandemic. Three years ago, I returned to the US for the first time since the pandemic began with a special government permit, as the borders were officially closed for travellers. I will never forget the warm embrace from our US industry colleagues in Amelia Island at the SISO Summit there. When this UFI Info goes out, I will return to Amelia Island for this year’s SISO. It will be extra special for me and a reminder of the unlimited power of collaboration.

Best regards,

Kai Hattendorf, UFI CEO