GAHP Newsletter – February 2020

Hello international association friends!

Welcome to the February 2020 edition of the Global Association Hubs Partnership newsletter, featuring news about Brussels, Dubai, Singapore and Washington DC for the international association community, along with sometimes-provocative viewpoints, articles about international association strategy and business challenges, links to valuable resources including sign-ups for educational events and courses, and where to meet up with GAHP representatives over the coming months.

Martin Sirk, GAHP International Advisor


Food for thought for thoughtful association leaders

A regular column designed to spark debate within the international association community about globally relevant issues and challenges. 



It’s hard to avoid lurid headlines about locked-down cities, quarantined cruise ships, and legal demands by pilots to stop flying air routes, but what can international associations do to protect themselves and their members?

A fast-spreading novel coronavirus is certainly no cause for indifference or inertia, but it is also no reason for panic and unthinking action.  We’ve been here before, and not too long ago, with the 2003 SARS outbreak and the 2009 H1N1 virus whose epicentre was in Mexico.  The health protection protocols put in place after SARS, especially in Asia-Pacific, are as strong as have ever existed, and despite the (perhaps inevitably) too-slow reactions in the early stages of the current outbreak, and some dreadful and defensive PR mis-steps, there has been a highly professional and coordinated reaction by health authorities around the world.

When we look back with perfect 20-20 hindsight on the preventative steps that are being taken today by governments around the world, perhaps again inevitably some of these will be judged to have been major over-reactions or even significantly more damaging to personal safety than the disease itself.  Today we’re simply too close to the problem to make an accurate judgement about which actions are appropriate and which are not.

What is hugely worrying are the reported outbreaks of xenophobia targeting specific nationalities, even including children returning to boarding schools, and implementation of harsh anti-immigration or protectionist economic decisions being taken using a fig-leaf of concern for the health of a country’s population.  Both of these actions deserve to be heavily condemned.

This kind of virus doesn’t respect citizenship or national boundaries, and hot-spots can suddenly appear anywhere, making a mockery of trying to isolate entire countries or regions (as some are trying to do for vast swathes of Asia).  During SARS, whilst most cases were in China and Hong Kong, another city hard hit was, improbably, Toronto, which was forced into virtual lock-down, whilst neighbouring Canadian cities were entirely untouched by a single case!

So what can associations do, especially if they are planning mission-critical annual conferences in countries or cities that are perceived to be higher risk?

  1. Don’t panic!  Pandemics and epidemics have natural growth and decline cycles, and by the time the scariest media stories are appearing it’s likely the worst will already be over.
  2. Regularly check information from reputable sources such as WHO, and follow their most up-to-date travel advice, especially when they indicate genuinely high risk, but pay particular attention to their specific advice about affected locations rather than drawing generalised conclusions about entire countries or regions.
  3. Create contingency plans, in collaboration with authorities in cities where you were planning to run activities; don’t simply abandon your partners, who will remember how you acted during a crisis for many years to come.
  4. Make sure you are 100% clear on insurance coverage, for your organisation and for members from around the world – sometimes members are happy to travel to a destination, but their company insurance prevents them from doing so.
  5. Communicate, communicate, communicate with your membership, constantly pointing them in the direction of factual information and away from sources of rumour and exaggeration.  Counter anecdotal stories with data and factual reports, without downplaying the seriousness of the situation.
  6. And make sure to offer support and assistance to your members in affected areas, ensuring they know you’re doing what you can to help them in a horrible situation that next time could affect any member, anywhere, at any time.

Here are some helpful links to WHO resources:

What you need to know about 2019-nCoV

What is coronavirus →

How to protect yourself →

Myth-busters →

Travel advice →

Questions & Answers →

Situation updates

Situation reports →
Here you will find the latest situation updates and data regarding the 2019-nCoV outbreak.

Disease Outbreak News →
Since 21 January 2020, Disease Outbreak News have been replaced with daily situation reports.

2019-nCoV situation dashboard → 

Finally, have you thought about the impact of another killer disease that no-one appears to be particularly worried about?  I’m talking about influenza, our old friend seasonal ‘flu.  Annual worldwide deaths from respiratory problems caused by the ‘flu are estimated to range between 300,000 and 500,000, with the CDC (the US Center for Disease Control & Prevention) calculating that in the USA alone there were between 21,000 and 63,000 deaths in each of the last five years, with over 800,000 hospitalisations in the worst recent year!  At the time of writing this article, the new coronavirus has led to over 800 fatalities, each of course a tragedy for victims’ families and friends, but in epidemiological terms, we are most definitely not facing the end of the world – something that’s worth bearing in mind when looking at the latest tabloid headlines.

Report from Dubai Association Conference 2019:
“The Societal Impact of Associations”

Watch a short video report on this record-breaking event:


Some conferences are impossible to summarise in just a few short paragraphs, but the following statements overheard during and after DAC’s dynamic and interactive education sessions give a flavour of the event’s intellectual depth and the passionately held views on display:

“Our job as association leaders is to make our members the heroes”.

“Destinations that put associations at the centre of their knowledge economy strategy will be tomorrow’s winners – like Dubai!”

“You can’t afford NOT to make time for foresighting”.

“If you don’t have a role model to help you achieve your dream, become that role model yourself”.

“If SDGs (UN Sustainable Development Goals) aren’t part of your association’s strategic vision, you risk irrelevance and extinction!”

“When we become a truly purpose-driven association rather than concentrating on transactional value, our association gains transactionally as well as ethically!”

Expertly curated by Genevieve Leclerc of #Meet4Impact, and with a theme that focused on the societal impact of international associations, the conference also included numerous innovative meeting formats and concepts, including headphone-enabled breakout sessions in the main networking area and one-on-one leadership coaching sessions by experts from the International Coach Federation.  The friendly atmosphere encouraged lively interaction between hosted association leaders and local executives, including those who have set up offices within the brand-new and super-cool Dubai Association Centre, such as Alaa Al Boali, Managing Director of Middle East Facilities Management Association, who described how the Centre’s design serves to encourage productive and motivating interaction between association executives, where previously they would have worked in isolation.

Visiting association delegates from Europe and North America, including a high-powered delegation from ASAE, were visibly impressed by the strategic vision behind Dubai’s investment in the association sector.  Patricia Blake, Chair of ASAE and CEO of the Heart Rhythm Society, praised the “global mindset” of Dubai’s leadership, and others were “blown away” by the vision and purpose behind Dubai’s 30 year-plus strategy.  Dubai aims to become a regional powerhouse in trade, healthcare, science and innovation, tourism and construction, and associations in these sectors are seen as absolutely vital to delivering their strategic goals.  His Excellency Hamad Buamim, President and CEO of Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, illustrated this thinking by pointing out that the 65 associations that have currently set up operations in Dubai are simply the tip of the iceberg – dramatic growth is anticipated over the next five years.

As a member of the Global Association Hubs Partnership, Dubai learns from and collaborates with colleagues in Brussels, Singapore and Washington DC, something that has helped elevate the conference to a new level. The choice of expert speakers (eg a top executive from EXPO 2020) and the investment in highly skilled moderators and workshop facilitators were incredibly well received by both local and international delegates.  But at its heart, the conference provided the perfect platform to exchange great stories and ideas between the participating association executives, enabling them to recognise shared challenges and opportunities, and to create new solutions for their most intractable problems.

Dubai Association Centre’s new office complex officially opened just before the Dubai Association Conference.

European Association Summit

10-11 March 2020
SQUARE Brussels Convention Centre

It’s now less than one month until the top European Association event of the year!  If you haven’t registered yet, it’s time to sign up!

For its 8th consecutive year, the European Association Summit invites the association community to the most engaging gathering of international associations in Brussels! Why attend EAS 2020 editionListen and contribute to hot association management and leadership topics led by respected experts; experience our engaging meeting design formats; participate in great peer-to-peer networking in a relaxed setting!

Before starting your journey within the largest gathering of representatives of associations in the capital of Europe, explore the program by discovering the session topics and the speakers‘ panels. So, what are you waiting for?


And you are never too young to attend the EAS, sign up your association’s future leaders as well as your current top executives: just check it out.


More info about the Association Bureau & the EAS? Subscribe to our newsletter HERE!

Boardroom Interview: Alfonso Lara Monteo from European Social Network

Proximity to the European institutions was a key factor when Brighton-based ESN needed to relocate to a new European HQ location after the UK’s Brexit referendum, but that was just one of many strategic challenges facing the association, as ESN’s Chief Executive Alfonso Lara Monteo explains.

Discover the full article here

Calling all association executives: now you can specify your own personal educational content with Boardroom!

Boardroom magazine has just launched its entirely redesigned new website, with registered association executive visitors able to custom-design their own content, interests and priorities.  Sign in now to gain access to this unique new service.


19 February 2020- ANNOUNCEMENT

IBTM postpones IBTM Asia Pacific 2020

Reed Travel Exhibitions has announced that it has postponed the inaugural edition of IBTM Asia Pacific in Singapore to; 13-14 April 2021.

The decision has been taken following the latest advice from our partners regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19), and as a result of in-depth discussions with our customers and hosted buyers from the region and globally, whose welfare is our number one priority.

Commenting on the announcement, Shane Hannam, Portfolio Director, IBTM Events, said: “This is not a decision we have taken lightly; our customers, partners and team in Singapore have worked incredibly hard on the event and while it is disappointing to postpone, it’s imperative that we prioritise the health and safety of everyone involved. We are extremely grateful for the understanding of our customers, partners and team, and for the strong support we have had since announcing this new addition to our portfolio. We also recognize that business has to continue. With this in mind, over the coming weeks, we will be creating ways of keeping our community connected to support and collaborate and to keep our world moving during this difficult period.

We send our warm regards to all our colleagues, partners and customers and sincerely wish everyone a swift return to normal life soon. We are committed to Singapore as a host city and look forward to returning to the region very soon to meet with as many customers and partners as possible.”

Dr Edward Koh, Executive Director, Conventions, Meetings and Incentive Travel, Singapore Tourism Board, said: “We understand and support IBTM Asia Pacific’s decision to reschedule their show to 2021, and we will work closely with Reed Travel Exhibitions and our partners to provide the assistance they need during this time. IBTM is a valued partner, and their Asia Pacific show remains a key highlight in Singapore’s event calendar. We look forward to extending a warm welcome to all attendees and exhibitors in 2021.”



For all media enquiries, additional comment and request for interview please contact Becca Krug, Nancy Cremore or Andra Miclaus at davies tanner:
Tel: +44 (0)1892 619100

Notes to Editors

About IBTM

IBTM, part of Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE) is the world’s leading showcase for the meetings and events industry (also known as MICE) with a portfolio of 5 global and regional events providing business solutions on 5 continents. They include IBTM World, IBTM Africa, IBTM Americas, IBTM China and the recently launched IBTM Asia Pacific.

About Reed Travel Exhibitions

Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE) is the world’s leading travel and tourism event’s organiser, with a wide-ranging portfolio of 22 international events in 13 countries throughout the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific and Africa. Its market-leading, business-to-business events cover all elements of travel and tourism, including leisure travel, luxury travel, meetings, events, incentives and business travel, as well as golf travel.


Selecting cities for sustainability: Washington, DC

Washington, DC has unparalleled accessibility to the outdoors with 250,000 acres of parkland across the greater Washington metropolitan area, 70 percent of which is controlled by the National Park Service. It also happens to be the #1 US city for public transport, according to SmartAsset and WalletHub in 2018. With the city’s vast number of national parks and walkability, it’s no surprise it leads in sustainability. Read on to learn 25 lesser known green facts about the nation’s capital.

1. Washington, DC is the 1st LEED Platinum City in the World, according to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

2. The Clean Energy DC Act, passed in December 2018, is the nation’s first 100 percent renewable energy bill and the most aggressive, fastest-acting climate change legislation in the country.

3. DC’s Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) is the leading authority on energy and environmental issues and employees approximately 300 engineers, biologists, toxicologists, geologists and environmental specialists.

4. With 7,800 acres of parkland, the District has the most park space among the most populous cities in the U.S. (DOEE), as well as being judged as having the nation’s best park system (Trust for Public Land ParkScore® Index, 2019).

5. The city has more LEED-certified buildings than any other city in the U.S. (USGBC).

6. Washington, DC is the first city in the nation to pass a law, the Green Building Act of 2006, requiring green building certification for both the public and private sectors (DOEE).

7. In 2018, Washington, DC was ranked #3 Greenest City in America by WalletHub.

8. Thirty-five associations, policy groups and advocacy organizations in the metro area focus on sustainability.

9. TheWalter E. Washington Convention Centeris a green facility, with earth-friendly features like low emission glass that controls heat and maximizes natural lighting; energy-conserving heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems that operate in zones; high-efficiency lighting; automatic controls on restroom fixtures; plus recycling programs and easy public transportation access.

10. Washington, DC is part of the C40 initiative, a grouping of 90+ cities around the world dedicated to finding evidence-based and bold climate action solutions.

11. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser is a member of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, a global coalition of city leaders addressing climate change by pledging to cut greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for the future impacts of climate change.

12. American Geophysical Union’s 62,000-square-foot headquarters is the first-ever net zero energy renovation of an existing building in DC and a prime example of DC’s walkability as it hosted 28,000 attendees for its 2018 fall meeting without using a shuttle.

13. The Sustainable Purchasing Program assists local agencies in procuring products and services that are high-performing, affordable and minimize their negative environmental impact.

14. Through the Sustainable DC Plan, the District has committed to sending zero waste to landfill and reducing waste generated by 15% by 2032.

15. In 2018, 22 businesses and two universities in DC were awarded for being bicycle friendly communities (The League of American Bicyclists).

16. Washington, DC is the first jurisdiction in North America to launch a bikeshare system, which now has more than 4,000 bikes and 500 stations.

17. Fifty-eight percent of commuter trips in DC are by bike, walking or public transit and the DC government is 100 percent powered by renewable energy (USGBC).

18. In Washington, DC, more than 1,400 buses operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) run on alternative fuel that is less harmful to the environment.

19. Seven local universities have significant credentials in sustainability from courses offered to connections to industry and key policy institutes.

20. USGBC, creator of LEED, is one of dozens of environmental agencies headquartered in DC.

21. Thirty-five associations, policy groups and advocacy organizations in the metro area focus on sustainability.

22. There are over twenty domestic and international sustainable startups in the metro area such as Clean Choice Energy and Arcadia Power.

23. In January 2010, the District encouraged residents to use more reusable bags by implementing a five-cent charge for each disposable paper or plastic carryout bag purchased at a business selling food or alcohol. The majority of the proceeds from the fee benefit the new Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Fund.

24. In January 2019, the District implemented fines for single-use plastic straws and stirrers and Mayor Bowser continues to support “Our Last Straw,” a coalition of businesses, environmental organizations and residents seeking to eliminate the use of single-use plastic straws.

25. More than 140 miles of bike lanes and paths, are the forefront of Washington, DC’s dedication to building an environmentally conscious city (Obviously DC).

From reducing greenhouse gas emissions to supporting clean energy innovation, check out why DC is a top destination for green meetings.

 The Iceberg


GAHP is proud to be an official supporter of this not-for-profit advocacy platform for international meetings, which features a wide range of case study stories and research projects related to the societal impact of such meetings, and especially those organised by international associations.



 Meet GAHP representatives at:

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