Circumnavigating Challenges

Author: Sherrif Karamat       

Sherrif Karamat

Sherrif Karamat, CAE

Investor Warren Buffett said it best: You will never see eye-to-eye if you never meet face-to-face. Business events are meant to facilitate growth and transformation by gathering people from disparate walks of life and different parts of the world to collaborate and learn. Great things happen when we convene. Knowledge is transferred and society benefits as a whole.

But when we start placing limits on how and where thought leaders can gather, we diminish the global economic impact and social progress that business events drive. External pressures, including the rising tide of nationalism and trade and mobility tensions from Great Britain’s March 29 departure from the European Union (impending at the time the April issue of Convene was going to press) hinder our ability to attract speakers and attendees to and from destinations around the globe. When we lose the diversity of thought that comes from gathering people together from different countries, industries and professions become more myopic and can stagnate.

How governmental policies are playing out in the events industry in the United States was illustrated by one finding from Convene’s annual Meetings Market Survey, published last month: Eighty-eight percent of event professional respondents said that it was more difficult for their potential business events participants to obtain visas in 2018 than in 2017.

That dovetails with the results of a Tourism Economics report published in January, which found that the United States continued to lose market share in international travel last year.

“This reinforces our continued concern that global antipathy towards ‘America First’ rhetoric and policy is affecting international travel to the U.S.,” Adam Sacks, president of Tourism Economics, told Convene.

Limitations to free mobility have not only prevented thought leaders from sharing ideas at global business events but created barriers to organizers who are coordinating programs in different pockets of the world. In addition, others who power the business events industry, the foreign nationals who work in the global hospitality industry, are subject to the effects of these external forces. Those forces can hamper the growth of this important sector.

Technological advancements, including artificial intelligence, will mitigate some of the impact of the lack of free mobility, but AI is not a flawless substitute for face-to-face meetings. In a world of increasing complexities, it’s quite simple: We need to gather together as one in order to achieve global economic growth and social prosperity.

Medical Advances

Speaking of the power of international events, in the April issue of Convene we spotlight one global medical conference that is dedicated to furthering research and developing better treatment options for patients who suffer from a rare autoimmune disease, scleroderma. Launched less than a decade ago, the World Scleroderma Congress attracted 1,000 participants from around the world last year to share their experiences and improve the lives of the estimated 2.5 million people who suffer from the disease.