SISO Puts Teeth Into Its Support for Ukraine

SUE PELLETIER, SENIOR EDITOR

MARIETTA, Ga. — The Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO) is doing more than just saying it condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It announced March 7 that SISO was immediately suspending Russian members from all access to the organization’s events and activities.

“We’ve all watched with horror as the conflict in Ukraine has escalated, with reports of explosions in populated areas,” Hervé Sedky, Chair of the SISO Board of Directors and CEO of Emerald, said. “We cannot stand by and watch this conflict unfold without taking action. We have decided to suspend Russian members from participation in our events.”

Calling the Ukraine invasion a “tragic and senseless unprovoked attack by Russia on the people of Ukraine [that] must be condemned by all, SISO CEO David Audrain said SISO also was launching a fundraising campaign and contributing to the ongoing humanitarian efforts. SISO will be seeding the campaign, which will support the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), with an initial $10,000.

Those interested in supporting the fundraising efforts should contact info@SISO.org.

Trade shows also are taking action to show their support of Ukraine during the Russian invasion. In addition to IMEX Frankfurt announcing it would suspend Russian state enterprises from participating in its 2022 show in Germany this spring, GSMA, which organizes the Mobile World Congress show, announced that it was banning some Russian exhibitors from its show floor, and that it would not be holding a Russian pavilion at its trade show. MWC drew more than 60,000 attendees to this year’s hybrid event in Barcelona in early March.

The Germany-based International Congress of Mathematicians’ (ICM) went even further. On Feb. 26, it announced it was pulling the plug on its July 2022 in-person event in St. Petersburg and would hold it fully virtual instead. ICM organizers said of the decision, “recent developments in Russia and Ukraine have changed the situation dramatically” and make it “impossible for the IMU to host the ICM and the [General Assembly] as traditional in-person events in Russia.”

Related. Decision to Exclude Russian Enterprises From IMEX Frankfurt Explained

Other Industry Organizations Unite in Support of Ukraine

Meeting Professionals International (MPI) also has taken action to show its condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In a statement earlier this month, it released a statement condemning the “acts of aggression from Russian forces and urges an expeditious end to the

conflict with Ukraine,” adding, “In a show of support for the people of Ukraine, MPI will immediately suspend business with all companies in Russia. In addition, any plans to formalize a chapter in Russia will be paused.”

“We remain concerned for the well-being of our community and our MPI members in Russia and Ukraine who were already seeking to climb out of the shadow of this pandemic and are now experiencing these unprecedented challenges,” the MPI statement said.

The Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) and the meeting industry umbrella organization, the Events Industry Council (EIC), also have issued statements condemning Russia’s invasion and solidarity with the people of Ukraine, though they stopped short of taking action.

PCMA’s statement said, “We stand united against war and acts of evil against innocent civilians. We support people that believe in and live in a peaceful society. Our prayers are with all who are grieving, and it is our hope that peace will prevail quickly.” ICCA President James Rees said, “We call on governments on all sides to do everything possible to end hostilities and meet to negotiate a peaceful resolution to this conflict.” EIC’s statement reflected a similar stance, saying, “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…We stand firmly with Ukraine and urge all parties to work towards a peaceful resolution.”

Venues and Hospitality Companies Join in Taking Action

Messe Frankfurt, one of Europe’s major trade show venue companies, has taken a stronger stance, similar to SISO and MPI. It has suspended business activity in Russia, including the activities of its subsidiary, Messe Dusseldorf Moscow, until further notice.

Related. UFI Global Exhibition Barometer Shows Pace of Recovery Differs By Region

The company said in a statement, “Our company creates internationally neutral communications and trade platforms where people of all nations come together. Our corporate principles stand for peaceful co-existence and trade relations of the same kind – because this is a prerequisite for a functioning international economy and for a functioning international coexistence as a whole.”

Trade show-adjacent industries including hospitality are also expressing their support for Ukraine by suspending operations in Russia. Major hotel companies including Hilton, Hyatt and Accor have joined Apple, Exxon Mobile, American Express and McDonald’s in taking action, with Hilton and Hyatt putting a freeze on new hotels and investments in Russia. IHG also closed its Moscow corporate office and has called a halt to new hotel openings in the country, as has Marriott. (The New York Times is keeping a running list of corporate pullouts from Russia here.)

Reach Hervé Sedky at herve.sedky@emeraldx.com; reach David Audrain at (404) 334-4585 or david@SISO.org