Geneva International Association Forum – a Global Platform for Knowledge Sharing
Seeks to establish annual global leading platform for knowledge sharing in Geneva.
Adapt and Act
Business Meetings Might Move to a More Hybrid Set-Up
Radisson Hospitality ceo Federico J González on how hotels will change permanently.
The Kaohsiung Protocol Identifies Trends and Key Strategies
Taiwan invites the global ICCA community to connect and explore new ideas, formats and technologies.
New Protocols
Economics and the Sustainability Agenda Will Influence the Demand for the Hybrid
The shadow of the pandemic might linger and consumer behaviour continue to change.
Why a Proposed Horn of Africa Bloc Could Destabilise the Larger Region
Bears risk of alienating other countries in the East African region.
One Year to Expo 2020 Dubai: UAE Ready to Reconnect the World
Spirit of collaboration and innovation to build strong, sustainable future for everyone.
Geography of Innovation
Switzerland Ranked as Most Innovative Country in New UN Report
Regional leaders identified in latest index.
World’s First AI University in Abu Dhabi Welcomes Its First Students
Worldwide demand doubles initial admissions.
Global Access
A New Global Passport Mobility Hierarchy Emerges
Overnight the world’s knowledge workers became temporary professional nomads.
Where Did the Road Go?
Atti Soenarso on how many new skills we need to learn.
Geneva International Association Forum – a Global Platform for Knowledge Sharing

Earlier this year, The Geneva International Association Forum (GIAF) was launched by the Association World Foundation, in collaboration with the Geneva Convention Bureau and Congrex Switzerland.

The two-day event brings together representatives of international and European associations, nonprofit organisations, federations, professional societies, NGO’s and universities. Its primary goal is to establish an annual global leading platform for knowledge sharing in one of the world’s flagship host destinations for associations, Geneva. Kai Troll is the President of Association World and spokesperson of GIAF:

“The Covid-19 pandemic remains highly active and unpredictable. We have carefully analysed the situation and worked closely with all relevant stakeholders and partners to consider a range of possibilities. We can therefore inform that due to the given latest rise in numbers in the Geneva area especially, we have decided to move GIAF to 5–6 November 2020.

“Whilst most delegates are Geneva-based attendees, or from the area, the health and safety of our association’s peers and friends as well as of our speakers is the utmost importance. People should feel comfortable to attend a public event such as GIAF. Given the developments, we couldn’t guarantee that, and a timely decision is therefore necessary. Running GIAF virtually would theoretically be an option. However, our philosophy has always been that GIAF shall be the, or one of the very first events, to bring back association friends and colleagues together again.”

The congress in November will be a hybrid event, and people from outside Switzerland can join from wherever they are.

The Geneva International Association Forum is ­promoting a ­#RiskFreeRegistration, and according to that motto, they have offered all registries who are unable to join the event a full refund and have communicated that to each individual in a personal message.

“We offer a programme, which will remain as much as possible, perhaps with slight adjustments here and there, if necessary. Together with our hospitality partner, the Intercontinental Geneva, we go beyond the standard measures and procedures to ensure your health and safety at the congress. In our mind, each attending will make a positive difference to other association peers. Benefitting from a valuable exchange, sharing our experiences and learnings, establish new partnership and hopefully creating more of an association community that remains aligned. Each and everyone attending will make GIAF complete,” says Kai Troll.


Business Meetings Might Move to a More Hybrid Set-Up

As chair of the global steering committee of the Radisson Hotel Group, which includes over a thousand hotels worldwide, Federico J González must have his hands full, especially at this time when the hospitality industry is in the doldrums globally. The marketer and author, who’s the President and CEO of Radisson Hospitality, tells us more about how hotels will change permanently.

What is your forecast for the hotel economy and your group as a whole?

“I believe that hotel operations will change permanently. We have all had to adapt and act together as a global community for the health and safety of our neighbours, families and friends. Operations have and will continue to change as we continue to apply the Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol and recommendations of the World Health Organization and local health authorities. These will change hotel operations such as check-in, F&B outlets, gyms, spas and more concerning social distancing, maximum capacity for common spaces and increased disinfection and cleaning. There will be a heightened awareness around safety.

“That will be the most important deciding factor for travellers which needs to be at the front of mind operationally. The Radisson Hotel Group is one of the largest hotel groups in the world. For us, it’s imperative to ensure a common high standard of hygiene, safety and sanitation that is standardised and implemented across the globe and validated by a third-party like SGS (global inspection, verification, testing and certification company).”

What about the tourism industry in general and the new thinking that will revive it?

“There are so many countries, companies and airlines that rely on travel, tourism and the hospitality industry. Many airlines and hotels are encouraging guests to start travelling again to reignite the travel industry and its future recovery. There is a strong appetite for travel, and it’s great to see hotels reopen and people travelling again.

“Looking ahead, health and safety will continue to be the most important deciding factor when booking a holiday. We are seeing people take smaller trips where they can get in their car, a train or a plane for a short journey. They want to ensure they will feel safe before getting on a long-haul flight. Given the economic climate post-Covid-19, many people may not be able to travel as much, which means they will either look to take smaller mini-breaks, invest in one holiday or spend the time discovering their own country.

“The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of technology within businesses, small or large, and we all had to learn how to work from home full-time from one day to the other, so I believe the way people meet will also change. There will always be a need for physical meetings and interactions. Still, business meetings might move to a more hybrid set-up, maybe with smaller teams getting together in one location and connecting with the others via videoconference.”

What are the opportunities/trends coming out of this crisis?

“Our whole world has been greatly impacted and the expansive global scale of Covid-19 is unprecedented. We have seen positive news coming from Asia and Europe with the reopening of some of our hotels and we will see further hotels start to open up as restrictions are lifted.

“I feel there is a real opportunity for brands to stand by and clearly communicate their brand values and positioning to consumers. Consumers need to believe in your brand, in your health and safety commitment and that you will deliver on your promises.”

What is your strategy for ’doomsday’ should the worst happen?

“Before Covid-19, we had a strong crisis management process and flexible cost model in place. Of course, no one could have predicted the global scale of this pandemic and the daily changes to our business, the world and life. With our global scale of over 1,100 hotels in operation and another 300 in the pipeline across the world, we had a global macro viewpoint of the pandemic and the different responses. We also have the full support of our shareholders for any financial needs until the expected end of the crisis.”

What lessons do you think are there in it for all of us?

“Covid-19 has brought out the best in many people around the world. It has been uplifting to see communities come together in support of key workers and medical professionals, rallying around each other. We have seen this, especially in the hospitality industry, which has been one of the most affected.

“I hope that we don’t forget this remarkable resilience, commitment, integrity and, most importantly, kindness and generosity towards the local communities where we operate and live in.”

Written by Busi Lethole, Forbes Africa

Photo: Christopher Pledger

The Kaohsiung Protocol Identifies Trends and Key Strategies

This year, the ICCA Congress transforms into a hybrid experience. With 800 attendees, 30 sessions, 40 speakers, 80 associations, and a six weeklong congress programme ICCA are reimagining the future of global events.

As part of the interactive congress Road to Kaohsiung programme, Taiwan invites the global ICCA community to connect and explore new ideas, formats and technologies.

The Kaohsiung Protocol is a framework identifying significant trends and key strategies which will enable the international meetings industry to thrive, now and into the future. You can join a live event at a regional hub on 1–3 November. The hub locations are Cape Town, Kuching, Latin America, Luxembourg, Malaga, North America and Riyadh.

In the first half of the year, Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) postponed or cancelled its trade shows considering the health and safety of exhibitors and visitors, as well as following the Central Epidemic Prevention Policy.

To provide the latest information about Taiwan International Trade Shows to domestic and international exhibitors and buyers, TAITRA launched a series of integrated online services. It is including Online 2D/VR Exhibition, Preshow Online Sourcing Meetings, Taiwan Trade Shows Webinars, TTS Insights Online Series (in Chinese). Online New Product Launches to meet exhibitors’ demand for international marketing and buyers’ procurement needs.

The exhibition organiser offers exhibitors participating in this year’s 19 trade shows online services. Exhibitors that have used the service are, for example, Taipei Cycle, Autotronics Taipei, AG Expo, Computex Taipei, Medical Taiwan, Foodtech Taipei, Bio/Pharmatech Taiwan, Taipei Pack and Taiwan Horeca.

Amid the human and economic toll inflicted by Covid-19, Taiwan’s response to the pandemic stands out as a model for the way forward. While most countries, including some of the world’s biggest economies with vastly greater resources at their disposal, continue to struggle with fresh outbreaks, Taiwan has managed to flatten the curve.

“Taiwan has responded on both humanitarian grounds and as a member of the global community. To that end, TAITRA has established the ’Anti-Covid-19 Pavilion,’ an online platform that integrates more than 2,000 industries, manufacturers and medical institutions related to pandemic prevention,” says Walter Yeh, TAITRA’s President and CEO. “The Pavilion provides one-stop medical resources to the world for helping fight this pandemic.”

Taiwan’s government achieved early success in limiting the outbreak within its shores with a range of proactive measures, including educating the public and implementing stringent protocols around quarantining, testing and treating its population.

While some companies are intensifying efforts to produce safety equipment, such as face masks and personal protective equipment (PPE), others are offering a variety of technological solutions. These include thermal imaging devices to detect fevers, robots to assist healthcare professionals. These testing kits expedite results and harnessing cloud technology to deliver solutions such as telemedicine and remote learning tools, which are proving invaluable at a time when most of the world’s population is under lockdown.

Now, nearly eight months since the first case emerged in Taiwan, life has mostly reverted to normal, with bars, stores, restaurants and professional sport all open for business, albeit with the requisite precautions.

There are three key lessons to take from Taiwan’s experience and replicate them for an effective response, according to Walter Yeh. These are contact-tracing, testing and quarantine or isolation-treatment.

“Effective execution of these measures hinges on effective leadership and strong public health infrastructure. Taiwan is ready and open to provide insights into epidemic prevention. Other nations could learn from Taiwan’s success, and together, we can make this happen,” says ­Walter Yeh.

Economics and the Sustainability Agenda Will Influence the Demand for the Hybrid

Businesses around the world are trying to figure out how they can return from the immense damage inflicted by Covid-19. In an environment where a vaccine is yet to be found, there is extreme uncertainty, making planning very difficult. The shadow of the pandemic will remain even after the vaccine. Consumer behaviour will continue to change.

In the Meeting, Incentive, Convention and Exhibition industry responses will vary. Operations will resume with new protocols. Reactions will range from building retrofit works and technology upgrades to staff reskilling and redesign of processes for agility and resilience. There will be accelerated digital adoption.

Signals of increased demand will likely come suddenly and in clusters. It will require an aggressive ramp-up. Business events venues have a history of slow delivery on technology. Venues that act with urgency on digital initiatives are likely to gain a competitive advantage. Virtual event technology is only one aspect of the digital playbook for these venues.

Technology will be central to every interaction, from marketing and selling to planning and hosting the event. It will facilitate regulatory compliance and enhance the customer experience. Some solutions will even offer revenue growth opportunities. Some of the digital solutions expected from venues include:

  • Remote selling and virtual venue tours. Planner access to a virtual version of function rooms with seating configurations, lighting, etcetera.
  • Contactless registration and tracing via mobiles and kiosks.
  • Live analytics via beacons and mobiles. Venue navigation, heatmaps and crowd management tools to influence visitor journey and social distancing.
  • Virtual event solutions. Software plus broadcast studios, and tech crew for prerecorded events and live streaming.

Physical interaction remains powerful. Virtual event technology is not new, yet in-person events have remained endemic. But a digital shift is now inevitable.

Virtual events will not overtake in-person events. Virtual events are peaking in a Covid world. But once Covid passes, a modest share will opt for virtual-only mode. The vast majority will return as in-person or hybrid events where virtual complement physical. But a major delay in a vaccine could swing more events to virtual-only mode. Virtual and hybrid events extend the audience reach and content offer.

Ticketed events like sports and entertainment have good experience with hybrid events. But the Meeting, Incentive, Convention and Exhibition industry is in digital infancy. It will take time to optimise it.

Economics and the sustainability agenda will also influence the demand for the hybrid. Venues that offer all three options, in-person event, hybrid event, and virtual event, will likely have the edge over rivals. Once venues invest in technology for hybrid events, they will have the technology infrastructure to offer to those who want it for virtual-only meetings. Almost all of us have participated in a virtual event when joining an online webinar or video conference. But these are short single sessions.

As we progress to full or multi-day conferences and exhibitions, the level of complexity rises. These are built around a live, complex agenda with keynotes, breakouts, displays, and more. They include real-time content, on-demand content, networking, 3D virtual booths, and more. Virtual event software offering this experience for conventions is limited, and even more, limited for exhibitions.

Engaging with a virtual audience is not easy. The audience has a limited attention span and varying levels of interest. They expect to see more than a speaker’s face and a powerpoint. They expect a quality simulation of the live event, akin to a TV show production. Virtual event software on its own is often not enough.

Content is key. But delivery is also important. Delivering a professional quality virtual webcasting or live-stream event requires a studio set up with broadcast technology. It needs professional staging and production crew.

The initial cost of virtual events can be high with issues monetising it. But as virtual events mature the cost of access and pervasiveness will improve. The virtual experience may be enhanced with immersive virtual reality, augmented reality, holographic teleconferencing, gamification, and more.

Oslofjord Convention Centre in Norway is one of the early adopters in this space offering hybrid event options well before Covid-19. It boasts a 360-degree broadcast TV studio, 120m LED screen, advanced AV, lighting and in-house production crew. It can support up to 3,000 live streams and 10,000 viewers. Also, Sands Expo and Convention Centre in Singapore has launched a hybrid event broadcast studio with live-streaming capabilities including 3D stage and holograms seen as a first for the meetings industry.

To keep up during Covid-19, companies have moved fast. Speed will continue to be of the essence. Along with our optimism for a vaccine, we have to be conscious of the downside risk that effective vaccination may not be achieved until late 2021. Can we afford to wait? Urgent action is not without blind spots and unknowns, but the price of waiting may be far greater.

By Rod Kamleshwaren, Gaining Edge.

Image: ICCA Congress 2020 hybrid event, Oslofjord Convention Centre, Norway   Photo: Marit Tetlie Fossen

Why a Proposed Horn of Africa Bloc Could Destabilise the Larger Region

Relations in the Horn of Africa are complex and complicated. They are characterised by deeply ingrained rivalries between Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia in a conflict-ridden region. For decades, it has been known for civil war, conflict, and poor economic development.

Somalia is a textbook example of state collapse and the most fragile state in the world. During the 1990s, the state had disintegrated to the degree that the basic conditions and responsibilities of its government no longer functioned properly.

Eritrea and Ethiopia were at war for years. Ethiopia and Somalia also share a history of violent confrontation. One example of that ongoing conflict is the struggle to control the Ogaden region.

But when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed made his historic visit to Eritrea in 2018, the state of conflict between the two countries came to an end. Abiy Ahmed was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.

This peace deal started a dynamic which was followed by the revolution in Sudan and a recent peace deal in South Sudan.

And then on January 27, 2020, the leaders of Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia, President Isaias Afwerki, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, held their third trilateral meeting. They proposed to form a new regional bloc, which has been referred to as the “Horn of Africa Cooperation”.

This new bloc would be an addition to their memberships in the African Union, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, Eastern Africa Standby Force as well as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development.

The new bloc bears the risk of alienating the other countries in the East African region. It might also undermine the security efforts of other regional organisations. These include the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the African Union, and the Eastern Africa Standby Force.

Thus, the promises and pitfalls of this new bloc could shape the regional architecture and cause new political challenges in the region.

In our recently published paper on the proposed bloc, we assess the factors that led to the proposal for a new regional bloc in the Horn of Africa. We discuss the potential outcomes given the complex security challenges, political tensions among the neighbours, and institutional environment in the region. We argue that security challenges in the Horn of Africa and domestic concerns are core motivations for creating cooperation.

Regional cooperation addresses several key issues, including cross-border trade, and sustainable environment. It is also key to tackling peace and security threats.

A regional body dedicated to peace and security issues could help to address conflicts between the three states in the proposed of Horn of Africa Cooperation. It could also help them manage domestic security threats.

From an economic perspective, it is not clear how the three states could strengthen their economic ties. This is because a significant amount of trade in the region is small scale, local, informal, and sometimes illegal. In terms of trade, there is limited complementarity between the three states.

As the most advanced country in the bloc, landlocked Ethiopia has the interest to strengthen transportation links and access to the sea. This would be a pathway to the world market.

When it comes to Somalia, the country has neither a reliable economic base to export goods nor the financial resources to import them. In the case of Eritrea and Ethiopia, the recently concluded conflict between the two countries means that economic ties have to be reestablished.

Nevertheless, closer cooperation in the Horn of Africa bears the potential to strengthen economic and trade relations between all three states.

The creation of a new regional bloc is also an opportunity for its leaders to show activity and success on the regional stage. Putting the Horn of Africa Cooperation proposal on the table could deflect from domestic challenges in the three countries, such as Ethiopia’s current political crisis. With national elections in Ethiopia and Somalia approaching, Ahmed and Farmajo need to gain support for reelection.

In Eritrea, the authoritarian ruler Afwerki has reportedly pushed for the creation of the Horn of Africa regional bloc presumably as an opportunity to boost Eritrea’s reputation regionally. It is also a chance to sideline the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, which he has boycotted for several years due to its stance on basic principles of good governance and the influence of Kenya.

Once established, the Horn of Africa Cooperation would become a direct competitor of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, which is comprised of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda. Its efforts to manage conflicts in Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan have been relatively successful in recent years.

However, it lacks an economic integration perspective. It also suffers from ineffective governance structures and insufficient resources. The Horn of Africa Cooperation proposal could be an attempt to push for reform within the organisation.

But the new regional bloc will have a hard time building a reputation vis-a-vis the authority. The Horn of Africa Cooperation could also affect the East Africa Standby Force’s and more importantly, the African Union’s security efforts in the region through the African Peace and Security Architecture.

The cooperation also stands to alienate regional partners who face the potential loss of strategic influence in the region. Initial reactions from Kenya and Djibouti were frosty. Djibouti is a direct neighbour of all three states, and a potential candidate to join the new bloc.

Yet, Djibouti is home to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development. It also hosts the US Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. Moreover, the Addis Ababa–Djibouti Railway is currently Ethiopia’s only access to the sea, and Ethiopian business generates significant revenue for Djibouti’s ports. Therefore, transport links through Eritrea or Somalia could undermine Djibouti’s position as an economic and logistical hub.

For regional powerhouse Kenya, closer cooperation between the three neighbours could result in diminished influence in the region. As the dominating actor in the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, Kenya’s influence in the Horn would be affected by a competing Horn of Africa Cooperation.

Additionally, Kenya’s transport-link project with Ethiopia and South Sudan could be threatened by the new cooperation. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the Horn of Africa Cooperation has been branded “anti-IGAD”.

Written by Ingo Henneberg and Sören Stapel, University of Freiburg, Germany. First published September 2020 by The Conversation.

The Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD): The vision is to be the premier Regional Economic Community for achieving peace and sustainable development in the region. IGADs mission is to promote regional cooperation and integration to add value to Member States efforts to attain peace, security and prosperity.


One Year to Expo 2020 Dubai: UAE Ready to Reconnect the World

With one year to go until Expo 2020 Dubai opens on 1 October 2021, organisers are committed to convening the global community in a spirit of collaboration and innovation to build a strong, sustainable future for everyone.

Releasing new images that show the advanced state of readiness across the site, Expo 2020 is fully prepared to host a global celebration of humanity’s resilience, creativity, culture and innovation, a tribute to the strength of society, its ability to innovate, and pursuit of optimism in the face of adversity.

“Our leadership has spared no effort, guided us, and provided all resources to ensure that our World Expo will be a true expression of the UAE’s values, reflecting its ambition to build a better future for us, the region and the world, a future of which coming generations will be proud,” says Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation, and Director General of Expo 2020 Dubai Bureau.

“Our World Expo has a mission to inspire hope. In the coming weeks, we will begin to share new details and ideas about space, health and wellness, travel and connectivity and other subjects that sit at the heart of this Expo. We hope that people will join us to achieve our objectives to bring the world together and put humanity and the planet on the right path towards dignity for all.”

Progress on the Expo site has continued at pace, with more than 210 million work hours completed to date. The work in 2020 has focused on landscaping and fit-out of Expo-owned buildings. Also, the construction of the Country Pavilions will be finalised by the end of the year.

The first World Expo in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region will run from 1 October 2021 until 31 March 2022. It will bring together over 190 countries to explore new ideas, form new connections and collectively tackle some of the greatest global challenges of our time.

Expo 2020 Dubai will bring together millions of people and the most outstanding innovations from around the globe, helping to shape a better world under the theme “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”.

“The six months will be an opportunity to be part of an unparalleled event and we are extending a warm Emirati welcome to the world,” says Reem Al Hashimy.

Also, Expo 2020 will be an endless journey of discovery. Visitors will have access to the latest innovations and breakthroughs, with participants, including nations, multilateral organisations, businesses and educational institutions, coming together to highlight real-life solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.

“Expo 2020’s subthemes of opportunity, mobility and sustainability will inspire visitors to make a conscious effort to think and live differently and give them renewed optimism that, through collaboration, it is possible to make a lasting change to the world,” says Reem Al Hashimy.

The location for Dubai Expo 2020 will be near Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai South.

About World Expos. In 1851 the Crystal Palace was the centrepiece of London’s Great Exhibition, the first World Expo. It celebrated the human-made industrial wonders of a rapidly changing world. Architecture, contents and a theme, ’Industry of All Nations’, were combined to create a big idea of nations meeting nations in shared technological and commercial progress.

In more recent years, participants in World Expos, including governments, international organisations and companies, have gathered to find solutions to universal challenges and to promote their achievements, products, ideas, innovations. And also, their national brand, and their nations as destinations for tourism, trade and investment.

World Expos are held under the auspices of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), the intergovernmental organisation responsible for overseeing and regulating international exhibitions (’Expos’) and for fostering their core values of education, innovation and cooperation. Today, four types of Expos are organised under the BIE’s auspices: World Expos, Specialised Expos, Horticultural Expos and the Triennale di Milano.

Photo: Dubai Business Events