Ukraine War Takes Toll on Conference Destinations

Skift Take

Just how close to a war zone would you hold your event? This is the question that is exercising the minds of event professionals in the light of the war in Ukraine.

No event planner would dream of running their event directly inside a war zone, but the question becomes more real the closer your destination is to areas of conflict. Neighbouring countries such as Poland have no say in the matter. They are already caught up in this challenging situation.

Whether you participate in corporate event planning, association event planning or agency planning, you will have to consider how much risk you are willing or able to take. Maybe your risk management protocols prevent you from holding an event in a neighbouring country to Ukraine even if you wanted to. However, since event planning can begin as much as a year before the event, what may begin as a non-issue, could become more of a concern, should conflict arise or spread.

Living in a World of Grey

We live in a world made up of a spectrum of grey shades, where what used to be easy location decisions are now anything but simple. On the one hand you have delegates expecting exceptional experiences, but you also have to take into account humanitarian concerns. The economic devastation that war has brought to our colleagues in Ukraine makes us want to do business there, to help them. But is it possible?

Europe is rightly a popular conference destination for many US organizations, yet there are significant cost implications to consider. If you are flying delegates across the world they have a right to expect, at the very least, a safe and secure experience.

So before you book a hotel in a country bordering Ukraine, should you investigate whether refugees are being housed there? It may seem hard-hearted but would their presence impact on your delegates’ experience? Is this something that you should even consider? You do have a duty of care for your delegates and exhibitors, after all.

The UFI European conference 2022 in Poznan took place with a refugee center operating in the same building. The President of the Council of the Polish Chamber of Exhibition Industry, Tomasz Kobierski, clearly felt it was a positive move when he wrote “We are very proud to use our facilities here in Poznan to support refugees and the humanitarian effort.”

This is where it is critical to know your audience well. Getting inside the heads of your delegates will enable you to make informed decisions.

Communication is Critical

Talk to the event suppliers in the destination you are considering. They will be able to tell you exactly what is happening and how safe things are. Media headlines attract attention but rarely uncover the true picture.

Associations Have a Role to Play

Associations with members across the globe can play a key role in helping those destinations most impacted. Disseminating useful and timely information will enable members to understand what is happening on the ground, without attention grabbing headlines. They offer a unique perspective.

The association ICCA have decided to continue with Krakow as host for their 61st Congress. In a recent LinkedIn post Ksenija Polla from ICCA put it like this: “In difficult times it warms my heart to be part of an industry which is showing commitment and support to our industry and members in Poland and neighboring countries”.

Poland Pushes On

It’s not always easy to get a clear picture when it comes to Ukraine’s neighbors. Looking in from a US perspective, it could incorrectly appear that the war has reached Poland. But that is not the case. Poland is a sizeable country and should conflict approach the border, it would be unlikely to affect most of it.

Poland is getting on with business as usual. In the recently announced ICCA rankings, it improved moved up to 18th place globally. According to chief specialist at the Poland Convention Bureau Aneta Ksiazek Poland is busy delivering and getting ready for events.

There is no easy answer to anything when a war is raging. However, if event planners and destinations communicate with honesty and clarity about their pain points and ideas, the road to recovery will be that much quicker for everyone.