Meeting Diplomacy

Planners are not skipping destinations that come with diplomatic issues.

By Boardroom editors

South Korea is rising in the ranks as a top destination for international conferences, but planners weighing it and similar locations have to take challenges into consideration, such as diplomatic relations. South Korea was on the international stage as it hosted the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang. But fraught relations on the Korean Peninsula make frequent headlines.

This week at the 19th World Knowledge Forum (WKF) in Seoul, everyone from the United Nations secretary general to crypto exchange founders will gather to discuss global issues and solutions to promoting balanced world economic growth. It’s an example of the kinds of events taking place in the nation.

South Korea has rapidly grown to be one of the top MICE destinations in the world, ranking first in the UIA Global Meetings Statistics in 2017 thanks to venues like Songdo Convensia, Asia’s first LEED-certified convention centre.

At the WKF, which is headquartered in South Korea and has been held annually since 2000, around 3,500 delegates will gather to learn how to handle geopolitical issues in destinations including the one where the conference is being held. More than 200 speakers will offer insight into some of the most talked-about subjects in today’s economy. At last year’s event, Harvard economist Oliver Hart, a Nobel laureate in economics, spoke about economics in a new era on what was his first visit to South Korea. Another Nobel laureate, Robert Merton, a resident scientist at hedge fund Dimensional, talked about changes in the global investment environment, as well as some of the latest investment strategies.

With conferences such as the WKF educating leaders and public figures on global issues, destinations that may not have been considered due to diplomatic issues may surge in interest once their political — or economic — situation is seen through a new lens.

Topics like these help shed light on cities in Europe such as Istanbul, which, despite political instability and terror attacks, continues to attract high-profile congresses, such as the 22nd World Petroleum Congress Istanbul in 2017, which brought 12,000 attendees to the city; the 16th WFNS World Congress of Neurosurgery, which has been held in the city since 2011; and the European Association for International Education (EAIE), which drew 4,000 delegates for its 25th annual conference in 2013.

One of the reasons EAIE decided to host its anniversary event in Istanbul was to foster new thinking.

The conference programme said: “Celebrating a quarter of a century of EAIE Conferences, the EAIE decided to push the boundaries and head to the edge of Europe for this milestone event. The theme was ‘Weaving the future of global partnerships,’ and Istanbul provided the much-anticipated fusion of Western and Eastern cultures to inspire participants to new ways of thinking and working.”

As American Express’ Global Meetings and Events Forecast found this year, concerns about security and stability influence meetings and events decisions. “They do not, however, as Mr. Jouaneh, Senior Vice President and General Manager, American Express Meetings & Events, suggests, limit the possibilities of meetings and events.”

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