GAHP Newsletter – November 2019

Hello international association friends!

Welcome to the November 2019 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.

A particular highlight in this edition is a report on the latest UIA data on the location of international association HQ and regional offices, once again reinforcing the dominant position of our four cities in their regions.

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.  Please feel free to respond to these personal viewpoints (even, or especially, if you disagree!), or suggest hot topics that you would like me to cover in future GAHP Newsletters.

In Praise of Promiscuous Partnerships

Why self-sufficient attitudes endanger international associations

Here are a few uncomfortable truths facing international associations:

  • Historic roles as quasi-monopoly providers of specialist knowledge are being steamrollered by the Information Revolution.
  • Competitive pressures are only heading in one direction – and it isn’t just your obvious rivals who are in play.
  • If you aren’t in gold, silver or bronze medal position, you’re nowhere.
  • It’s impossible to be world-class in more than a few areas where you have genuine USPs.
  • The one thing increasing as fast as competition is complexity.
  • Your plan will be perfect until it gets punched on the chin (to paraphrase Mike Tyson).

And perhaps most important for this argument:

  • Everyone is in the same boat!

A partnership strategy begins with the recognition that the world has fundamentally changed and will change even more swiftly and dramatically in future, and that what made your association great today will not be sufficient to survive and (hopefully) thrive in the future.  For most associations, present success has been built on a foundation of specialist strengths, expertise, experts, and assets, all of which have been internally generated.  Associations have largely been self-sufficient, self-reliant, and of course self-confident, and could automatically count on the loyalty of their members.

Tomorrow, I believe the key to success will be the ability to utilise and leverage your internal assets in a comprehensive partnership strategy, one that ranges from high-level advocacy and global development down to individual project planning, and that creates roles for rival associations, companies and universities, city agencies, and all stakeholder groups that share an interest in your mission or fields of endeavour.

Partnership thinking should be embedded in every facet of an association’s existence.  Boards and management should constantly be exploring “who shares our values”; “whose input might lift this particular service from great to world-class”; “how can our skills and assets be leveraged to attract the most brilliant collaborators”; “could our rivals turn out to be our friends”.  And of course, “which cities will be our strongest, most innovative partners for hosting our meetings and supporting our offices” (GAHP has a strong view on the answer to that particular question!).

Partnerships don’t need to be permanent; they don’t need to be exclusive; they can be for narrowly defined purposes or time-periods, or in specific geographical regions or sectors of interest, or even set up as experiments to test out new ideas or open up new possibilities.

I’ll be leading sessions on this topic at the Dubai Association Conference in December, listening carefully as association leaders share stories of how they’ve built their own portfolios of productive partnerships, and will share these ideas through a later edition of this newsletter.

GAHP at IBTM World – will we see you in Barcelona?

Once more the global meetings industry will descend on Barcelona for IBTM World from 19 to 21 November (with pre-show events on Monday 18 as well).  GAHP cities will be prominent on the exhibition floor, and we particularly look forward to meeting up with international association friends.

Meet GAHP partners at IBTM: Brussels; Dubai; Singapore; Washington DC

  • Convention & Association Bureau: stand G40
  • Dubai Association Centre/Dubai Business Events: stand i50
  • Singapore Exhibition & Convention Bureau: stand G80
  • Destination DC: stand K15

GAHP International Advisor Martin Sirk will be at the show every day including the Monday afternoon Policy & Partnership Forum and Monday evening Leadership Summit.  To arrange a meeting, please email

2019 UIA report on association HQ & regional office locations

The latest 2019 data from UIA, the Union of International Associations, on the locations of international association offices once again confirm the dominant position of each GAHP partner city in their region of the world. In aggregate, Brussels, Dubai, Singapore and Washington DC are the chosen host destinations for almost 10% of all international association offices worldwide.

2006 – 2019: Number and location of association secretariats (HQ and regional offices)

Hub city


  2006 2011 2017 2018 2019 2006-19 % 2018-19 %
  HQs/ROs Brussels 2,219 2,306 2,363 2,438 2,483 11.90% 1.85%
Brussels HQs/ROs Europe 19,372 20,023 20,281 20,452 20,565 6.16% 0.55%
  Hub market share 11.45% 11.52% 11.65% 11.92% 12.07%
  HQs/ROs Dubai 16 29 32 37 42 162.5% 13.51%
Dubai HQs/ROs Mid. East 704 726 622 678 683 -2.98% 0.74%
  Hub market share 2.27% 3.99% 4.83% 5.46% 6.15%
  HQs/ROs Singapore 151 221 223 226 224 48.34% -0.88%
Singapore HQs/ROs Asia 2,567 2,906 2,896 2,957 2,987 16.36% 1.01%
  Hub market share 5.88% 7.60% 7.70% 7.64% 7.49%
  HQs/ROs Wash DC 831 909 990 996 991 19.25% -0.50%
Washington HQs/ROs N.America 7,328 8,006 8,519 8,610 8,704 18.78% 1.09%
DC Hub market share 11.34% 11.35% 11.62% 11.57% 11.39%
  HQs/ROs in GAHP 3,217 3,465 3,608 3,697 3,740 16.26% 1.16%
Total HQs/RO Worldwide 32,628 37,244 37,504 37,835 38,115 16.82% 0.74%
GAHP Hub mkt share WW 9.12% 9.30% 9.62% 9.77% 9.81%

Whilst Brussels and Washington DC have enjoyed decades-long leading positions as destinations of choice for association office locations, Singapore and Dubai have both dramatically increased regional market share over the last decade and a half, reflecting the proactive decision by both cities to attract regional offices for international associations, especially those operating in fields that represent high priorities in terms of long-term economic and societal development.

In GAHP cities, associations not only benefit from strong support services from city agencies, they can take advantage of association-friendly business eco-systems that have evolved to serve their needs, and have access to the deepest pools of skilled, association-experienced staff.

Last chance to register for Dubai Association Conference:
“The Societal Impact of Associations”

9-10 December 2019

Please read this informative Boardroom ( magazine article on one of the conference’s key educational pillars, “The Art of Collaboration”.  Sessions will cover high-level partnership strategies, innovative approaches to problem-solving through collaboration, and will explore city-based and event-centric approaches, as well as broader, global relationships.

Discover the article

Registration now open for 2020 European Association Summit

10-11 March 2020, SQUARE Brussels Convention Centre

Don’t miss out on the early-bird rates for one of the best custom-designed education programmes for associations in Europe!  And bring the smartest young professionals in your office, too – there’s a special discount for them.

Early-bird rate for association executives: EUR 215

Early-bird rate for young professionals under 30 years old: EUR 172

Sign up here!

Access to the event includes:

  • 2 days packed with workshops, panel discussions and lectures
  • Interactive meeting format to make the most of your presence
  • A variety of topics that should find every association’s interest
  • Coffee breaks, lunches, networking dinner and farewell cocktail

Here are the first confirmed speakers:

Boardroom Interview: UITP Secretary General Mohamed Mezghani –

UITP, the global organisation for public transport, has never faced a greater need to project its advocacy interests, expertise and knowledge throughout the world.  As policymakers struggle to translate growing climate crisis awareness into concrete action plans, and as more and more countries and companies embrace UN Sustainable Development Goals, UITP has chosen to base its key operations in cities (including three GAHP members – Brussels, Dubai and Singapore) that can act as proactive partners to support its programmes and business objectives.

Discover the full article

Singapore’s Conference Ambassadors:
introducing a cross-section of locally-based international association leaders

International associations thinking about where to locate their regional offices should consider the local intellectual community as a key factor in their decision-making.  And a quick way of evaluating any city’s strength in this regard is to take a look at their conference ambassador programme.   Singapore’s ambassadors cover a huge range of academic, scientific and business disciplines, and demonstrate the enormous strength of the local intellectual community, including their willingness to proactively work on building bridges between Singapore and their colleagues in the wider world.

Here are links to the profiles of these association leaders:

Washington DC – knowledge is power

The knowledge economy is becoming the key arena within which cities are competing against each other in the 21st century, as they appeal to associations and companies for their trust and business.

Washington DC has one of the strongest educational infrastructures in the USA, both institutional and in terms of its smart workforce, a fact that is being proactively leveraged to attract inward investment and international meetings.

For more information on this critical strategic issue for associations, please click here.

Meet GAHP representatives at:

We are a proud partner of 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. For more information :

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