St. Petersburg is going to host the Europe + Asia Event Forum (EFEA) for the fourth time in its history. This unique communication platform will bring together events industry representatives from 28 countries around the world and 25 Russian regions. Serguei Trofimov, president of RESTEC Group and chairman of the EFEA Organising Committee, has shared his thoughts on the industry's development capacity and the forum's mission.
Mr. Trofimov, the year 2014 posed quite a number of complex challenges for our country and, come to think of it, for the rest of the world as well. How has the event business been affected by the economic and political crisis? Have the international sanctions had a tangible impact on the industry?
Without a doubt. The growth of the congress and exhibition sector in Russia slowed down in 2014, compared to the previous periods. Market players predict the same dynamics for 2015 as well. Among the main trends, we may distinguish a lower demand from international customers, fewer event requests from Europe and North America, a drop in the number of large-scale city-wide events and in the number of events as such, etc.
Though there still are some positive developments. For example, we see that a higher interest in joint events is being expressed by various Asian, Middle East, and Latin American nations, and have more requests from them. Russian companies are becoming more active as well, having been granted additional opportunities in the domestic market.
Given the circumstances, do you think the government pays enough attention to the congress and exhibition sector?
We should understand that exhibition, fair, and congress activity is an industry in its own right. It generates its own tax base, contributes to the GDP, creates new jobs and, consequently, has to be governed by separate regulations, just as any other independent industry.
As of today, the government has already taken a number of measures to address this issue. In particular, the market players were involved in the development of the Concept of Exhibition, Fair, and Congress Development in the Russian Federation, which has already been approved by the Russian Government; moreover, a number of events have been planned and approved in order to implement the concept. Various regions of the Russian Federation have prepared sets of regulative documents that will govern exhibitions, fairs, and congresses; these include, in particular, concepts and development programmes.
A federal law 'On Exhibition, Fair, and Congress activity in the Russian Federation' is also currently in the works. And finally, the agenda includes creating a federal targeted programme, entitled, 'The Development of Exhibition, Fair, and Congress Activity in the Russian Federation until 2020'.
In terms of coordinating and enhancing government support of the events industry, special emphasis is given to creating convention bureaus, which will oversee dynamic marketing activity aimed at the promotion of both the entire nation's and specific regions' potential in the domestic and international markets. Moscow already has a success story to share. St. Petersburg, in turn, created its own Convention and Exhibition Bureau in 2014; the bureau aims to lay out the concept of St. Petersburg development as one of the key global convention destinations. Establishment of St. Petersburg new brand may become an important milestone when it comes to holding more international events and increasing the influx of tourists into the city.
I would also like to point out that Russia's events industry has unmeasurable marketing potential, which we can and shall use for making the sector more popular, as well as for raising awareness of the issues we face. If market players join forces, they will be able to tackle a great number of challenges.
Now that we have touched upon the topic of promoting the country and its specific regions in the international arena and turning them into attractive event destinations – do you think that Russia needs its own national brand?
Well, what exactly is a national brand? I think it is the image of the nation or region that is recognizable and embraces the country's key capacities in terms of providing goods and services, as well as its achievements in science and education, cultural traditions, natural resources, etc.
There is a number of quite compelling examples all around the world, such as Germany's 'Made in Germany' brand, which is featured in all of the nation's marketing campaigns and industrial exhibitions. India, Italy, the Czech Republic, and other nations also have similar experience. Unfortunately, Russia has not implemented such practices so far. More often than not, Russian regions lack a joint concept that would represent them in the global market. Some of them use as many as five or six slogans at the same time, which, of course, hinders their promotion and confuses the target audience. That said, some regions have, in fact, succeeded in this field. One such example is the exhibition of Russian regions' achievements, which was held in the Olympic park during the Olympic and Paralympic Games of 2014 in Sochi. The brand that was proposed had a slogan, 'Russia – Great, New, Open!', which was reflected in the design of the exhibition, the publications, and the souvenirs.
Establishment and promotion of the national brand is a colossal effort that requires extensive administrative work. It should be pointed out that this work is to be carried out jointly by the government and the market players. Everyone should be interested in creating a brand of this type. A robust national brand has many obvious advantages; these include creating a well-balanced image of the country in the international community, supporting local companies, opening new investment opportunities, etc.
You mentioned that everyone should be interested in establishment of a national brand. Does this mean that EFEA, along with other similar events, is a perfect platform for discussing relevant issues and ways of resolving them?
It does. This is the fourth time that we are holding the Europe + Asia Event Forum, which is supported by RESTEC Group of companies. Following an established tradition, the forum's key topic is the role of event marketing in boosting the investment attractiveness of various regions and nations. This year is going to be no exception. The capacities of the events industry are to be discussed by the representatives of government authorities and social entities, event planners, РСО, DMC, etc.
In addition, one of the organisers, R&C Market Research Company, has invited foreign experts with fascinating experience, including the representatives of international industry associations.
Is EFEA going to feature discussions of issues connected with the current state of the market?
The forum pays special attention to these practical matters. For instance, the list of major topics on the event's agenda has been joined by the preservation of competitiveness on the corporate, regional, and even national level in the contemporary event market. Special focus will be given to the changes in the customers' needs, as well as to the specific features of corporate governance in an ever-changing environment.
As you have pointed out, St. Petersburg is hosting the Europe + Asia Event Forum for the fourth time. What does the city have in store for its guests?
Traditionally, the forum takes up several days. This year, we have introduced significant improvements to the agenda. Among other changes, we have added a whole new topical section, dedicated entirely to special events; we are also going to hold a jobs fair, an exhibition, and a new professional award ceremony. The forum's venue will also run a one-of-a-kind change management seminar, which has been planned jointly by the R&C Market Research Company and the leading experts in the area, Janos Barabas and Karla Juegel. I think that in the current market conditions, this seminar will prove to be a useful experience for all those present.
The forum has traditionally been supported by the Russian Federation Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Expocentre Fairgrounds, the Moscow WTC, the RUEF, and the St. Petersburg WTC. It is also worth noting that this year the forum has joined forces with wonderful new partners, such as the Russian Association of Communication Directors and Corporate Publishing (AKMR), the TASS news agency, and the Russian National Association of Event Organisers (NAOM). The EFEA partners participate in the business programme, helping organize and hold various sessions.