Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis: How the Events Industry is Helping

The number of events, travel, and hospitality industry groups that have issued statements condemning the Russian attacks on Ukraine, initiated efforts to raise awareness and funds, and blocked Russia-state participation in events continues to grow — while more event venues in Europe convert their facilities to house the millions of Ukrainians escaping the ravages of war.

Author: Curt Wagner       

Ukraine refugees at Warsaw expo center

Refugees from Ukraine rest at the Ptak Warsaw Expo Trade Fair and Congress Center in Poland, which has been converted to an aid center with housing, play areas, canteens, showers, and medical points. (Courtesy of Ptak Warsaw Expo)

The business events, travel, and hospitality industries seem universal in their condemnation of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, and more organizations are launching CSR projects to show support for the people of Ukraine every day. Even this short list of initiatives demonstrates the collective power and reach of the business events ecosystem and the impact it can have when united by a cause.

Event Industry Organizations

In a statement, PCMA condemned the “unprovoked and unjustified attacks on the people of Ukraine” and that “we stand united against war and acts of evil against innocent civilians.” In support of the American Red Cross and the critical need to assist those who fled Ukraine, PCMA and the PCMA Foundation has committed $10,000 to the Ukrainian Humanitarian Crisis relief fund. If you are interested in joining PCMA and the PCMA Foundation in donating, visit redcross.org and choose “Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis” from the drop-down menu.

MPI condemned “the acts of aggression from Russian forces” in a statement, suspended business with all companies in Russia, and postponed plans to formalize an MPI chapter in Russia.

Destinations International evicted its sole Russian member, the Saint Petersburg Convention Bureau, from membership, saying it would “not engage in further business in Russia until a peaceful resolution takes place.”

The Events Industry Council (EIC) released a statement that said in part, “The military invasion of Ukraine is in direct conflict with the values that all of us who serve the Events Industry Council and our global community passionately believe in, and we strongly oppose any form of violence and oppression that negatively impacts the safety and security of those that work in the events industry across Ukraine, their families, colleagues, and indeed all Ukrainians.”

The Association of Destination Management Executives International (ADMEI) said it stands “in solidarity with all individuals and companies impacted by the unprovoked attacks on the people of Ukraine” and supports “finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict.”

The Society for Incentive Travel Excellence condemned the war in a statement, while its chapter in Poland led industry efforts there to assist Ukrainian refugees coming to the country with transport, accommodation, food, medicine, cleaning products, medical and legal assistance, and routing financial donations through the aid organization Polish Humanitarian Action.

Members of the American Hotel & Lodging Association announced they would donate millions in room nights, cash, and rewards to support aid efforts for those impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Venues

Deutsche Messe AG, an expo center in Hanover, Germany, converted its Hall 27 into a refugee center with 36 tent villages that hold a total of 1,152 sleeping places. The project is a joint effort between the expo center, the state capital of Hanover, and the Hanover Fire Department.

The Ptak Warsaw Expo Trade Fair and Congress Center in Poland transformed 1.6 million square feet of its venue into the PTAK Humanitarian Aid Center, according to its website, “the largest European aid point for refugees from Ukraine,” which can temporarily house 20,000 people at any given time.

Working with the Municipality of Utrecht and Red Cross Netherlands, the Jaarbeurs exhibition and convention center in Utrecht, Netherlands, transformed one of its halls into a shelter that can accommodate 250 to 300 Ukraine refugees.

Several sports stadiums in countries neighboring Ukraine also have been set up for refugee housing, including Chișinău Arena and Arena Sport in Chișinău, Moldova, and Danube Stadium in Galati, Romania. The central pavilion of the exhibition and convention center Romexpo, in Bucharest, Romania, has been converted to a refugee center with 2,000 beds.

The Prague Congress Centre is being used as an assistance center for refugees fleeing to the Czech Republic. The refugees can register for special humanitarian visas, housing, and other needs there.

Facility-management firm Oak View Group pledged not to use any Russian brands in the more than 40 convention centers, theaters, sports arenas, and other venues it manages, including the Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle and the UBS Arena outside New York City.

Event Organizers and Tech Companies

IMEX Group suspended Russian state enterprises from attending its IMEX Frankfurt 2022 show, which is scheduled for May 31-June 2. “We do this with a heavy heart, understanding that the world is in an unprecedented situation,” said IMEX Group CEO Carina Bauer and Chairman Ray Bloom in a statement.

GSMA, organizer of the technology show Mobile World Congress, canceled the Russian Pavilion at the Feb. 28-March 1 show in Barcelona, thus banning Russian companies from exhibiting. The company said in a statement it “strongly condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

Messe Frankfurt, the world’s largest trade fair, congress, and event organizer, released a statement calling for peace and announcing it was suspending events at its Moscow-based subsidiary, Messe Frankfurt RUS, until further notice.

Messe Düsseldorf’s supervisory board suspended the event organizer group’s business activities in Russia, including at its subsidiary Messe Düsseldorf Moscow, until further notice. “The current events contradict the mission and values of our company,” CEO and President Wolfram N. Diener said in a statement.

Slovenia-based trade-show organizer Conventa mounted an online event March 4 called “LIVE From Ukraine: This is How You Can Really Help.” The event, which can be viewed on YouTube (see below), allowed Ukrainians a chance to tell their stories directly to Conventa’s network of event professionals.

The Germany-based International Mathematical Union, which organizes the heavily attended International Congress of Mathematics (ICM), turned its 2022 edition originally scheduled to take place in St. Petersburg into an all-virtual event based outside of Russia. Writing in a statement “we strongly condemn the actions by Russia,” the union’s executive committee also banned Russian state representatives from participating in the virtual event.

Employees of tech conference organizer Web Summit and the phone company Three volunteered to contact donors to verify pledges they have made to an Irish Red Cross portal where people can register any rooms or properties available to help accommodate Ukrainian refugees arriving in Ireland.

As Convene previously reported, the Ukrainian Library Association was forced to cancel its international scientific conference, “Modern Library-Information Continuous Education: What, How, for Whom?” in Ukraine due to the Russian invasion, saying in a statement, “The Organizing Committee of the Conference has decided to hold the Conference after our confident victory.”

Organizers of the Frankfurt Book Fair condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine in a statement from director Juergen Boos, and said they would not cooperate with Russian state institutions in charge of organizing the Russian collective stand at the October event in the Frankfurter Buchmesse venue.

Brussels International Association Forum (BIAF), set to take place March 14-15 and organized by Association World, announced it is partnering with Serve the City International in Brussels, which works to collect items for refugees in Poland and also to feed refugees coming to Belgium.

Event platform provider Let’s Get Digital is offering its virtual event platform and services free of charge for groups who are organizing any type of event — from fundraising to healthcare/educational conferences — that contributes to improving the situation in Ukraine or for refugees. Application are being accepted at letsgetdigital.com.

Hospitality

Airbnb offered free housing for up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees through the nonprofit it set up to provide housing relief during international crises, Airbnb.org.

Michael Widmann, CEO of PKF hospitality group, started the #HospitalityHelps initiative to help provide temporary free accommodation for Ukrainian refugees at several hotel partners in the region. The online hub at hospitality-helps.org allows those in need to register for a room, and hotels that have space to sign up to participate in the program.

Marketing agency Stay the Night and content creator Kash Bhattacharya from BudgetTraveller teamed up for the Hospitality for Ukraine campaign, which asks hotels, hostels, and other accommodation providers to open their doors to refugees. Companies can register at staythenight.net/hospitality-for-ukraine to join a database which will be published on a dedicated platform and shared with relevant organizations supporting refugees.

Polish hotel chain Arche Hotels is providing temporary housing for refugees at its 16 locations in Poland, and is organizing donations of food, cleaning products, clothes, games for children, and medical and psychological help through the Lena Grochowska Foundation.

Travel

Travel company BusinessClass.com banned Russia from its website, eliminating Russian destinations from its flight and hotel search engine as well as removing all content highlighting Russian companies of destinations. “Everyone who can do something, must,” company CEO Jason Eckhoff said in a statement as he urged other travel brands to take action.

Travel booking app Hopper provided $50,000 of booking credit for Ukrainians fleeing the conflict. Individual refugees can fill out an online application to receive $150 worth in Carrot Cash, the app’s rewards currency, to purchase accommodations.


Call Russia

Go Vilnius, the official development agency of the City of Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital, launched #CallRussia, a project aimed to directly contact people in Russia to dispel Russia’s state propaganda and incentivize Russians to publicly protest the war on Ukraine through human interaction.

Visitors to callrussia.org click on a button for a randomly generated phone number of a Russian citizen. “The Russian people do not know the atrocities being committed in their name,” according to the website. “Vladimir Putin does not represent decent Russians, and we are committed to connect to them with encouragement, truth, and support for what is right.

“The world’s opinion does not matter to Putin. He is not afraid of sanctions, and he does not care about the actions of world leaders. Putin is afraid of only one thing — the power of the Russian people themselves. Russians are the only people who can stand up to Putin, and 40 million ‘Call Russia’ calls” — the initiative’s goal — “can help them.”

Curt Wagner is digital editor at Convene.