«The Congress changed the perception of Russia for the better» - Kai Hattendorf, UFI CEO
One week after the UFI Global Congress-2018 we see media reports coming in.
On November 2d, the Exhibition World magazine, leading online platform for international exhibition organisers, venues and service suppliers across the globe, and UFI constant media partner published a report about the Jubilee 85th UFI Global Congress in Russia, St.Petersburg, ExpoForm Convention and Exhibition centre.
Here we post a shorted version of the article.
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EW‘s Johnno G visits the Venice of the North and finds some Imperial exhibitionism.
So political are the agendas to which we are exposed through the mainstream media, it is easy to believe what we are told rather than rely on a real face-to-face experience.
I had never yet visited and I began to look forward to my business trip to St Petersburg for the 85th UFI Congress.
The Congress itself was a great success. An ultra-modern venue, a truly global audience, with record-breaking numbers, gathered for 4 days of networking, educational sessions and business of the day, which included the handover of the presidential baton from Corrado Peraboni to South Africa’s Craig Newman for his 12-month tenure as UFI President.
Big themes in the UFI sessions were sustainability and legacy, and Russia can clearly carve out for itself a wonderful exhibition legacy judging by some of the key presentations the Russian Union of Exhibition and Fairs members made at the Congress.
Some of these cities may involve long distance travel, but boast valuable industrial experience and markets. This is a country – the biggest in the world – that put the first man in space, produced world chess champions, created numerous scientific breakthroughs, is a major oil and gas producer and which has a rich and diverse culture and heritage. The World Cup has been an exhibition showcase for a country that many have sought to isolate with sanctions, but which somehow pulled off one the world’s biggest event spectacles of the year.
The 500 delegates representing the crème de la crème of the global exhibition industry had the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of their football fanatics and drill a little deeper into the potential of a country that has been described as riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.
The Gala Dinner, at Catherine Palace, was a treasured experience, with UFI delegates being allowed exclusive access to The Amber Room and a full on evening fit for a Tsar. Social media that night were awash with numerous FOMO messages.
And I haven’t even mentioned the delights of The Hermitage and The Peter and Paul Fortress. St Petersburg is a city with 800 bridges and, for the VIPs of the global exhibition industry, provided a perfect bridge to connect cultures for the benefit of business.
I would say, don’t let politics get in the way of people power and breaking down barriers.
Peter the Great was a towering figure that helped drag Russia into the future; it was also the cradle of the Russian Revolution and clearly a place where big things happen.
St Petersburg has now set itself the goal of becoming Russia’s MICE capital. This will also require a monumental effort, but, judging by the seniority of the Russian political and economic leaders attending the special session on Russia moderated by EW’s editor Paul Colston during the UFI Congress, then all the ingredients are present for some exhibition alchemy that can, hopefully, produce many golden rooms full of exhibitors to complement the magnificent amber room of Catherine’s Palace.