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St. Petersburg Becomes the Congress Capital of the World

On October 31 – November 3, 2018, for the first time in history, St. Petersburg hosted the 85th Global Congress of the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI). The congress brought together more than 450 industry professionals from 54 countries of the world. The event was held at ExpoForum.

UFI Congress: New Milestone in the Development of Russia’s Exhibition Industry

The global event has been held every year since 1925. The global exhibition community comes to the congress to determine the future directions of the industry’s development. Throughout its history, the event was held in Russia just once, in 2005 in Moscow. The venue of the 85th UFI World Congress was officially announced in 2016 in Shanghai, and this fact confirms that even in the current geopolitical conditions, global business still sees Russia as a reliable partner.

ExpoForum International hosted the event and received rave reviews from the participants. According to UFI delegates, in the past 30 years, this was the best event. Foreign media published articles that reflected the change in perception of Russia after the event. “The political agenda as it is covered in the European media, is not at all truthful. This is the largest country in the world that sent the first man into space, that raised world chess champions, and boasts many achievements in science. Russia is a major producer of oil and gas and has a rich and diverse culture and heritage. The FIFA World Cup this year helped showcase this country, which many have tried to isolate with the help of sanctions, but Russia still successfully held one of the largest events in the world this year and will continue to do so in the future,” an article in Exhibition World said.

For more feedback on the event, please visit the online version of the UFI magazine at


Opening of the Key Event of the Planet’s Exhibition Industry

Speaking at the anniversary congress, President of UFI Corrado Peraboni said that the association was working hard to help its members become aware of and face all the challenges of the industry. “By organizing the congress, we help our colleagues exchange their experiences, network, and learn about all the important changes in the exhibition industry,” Corrado Peraboni said.

The holding of the UFI Congress in St. Petersburg serves as recognition of the city’s contribution to development of the congress and exhibition industry, and the result of the work being done by St. Petersburg players on the MICE market and the team of ExpoForum International. Oleg Markov, Vice Governor of St. Petersburg, said that the exhibition industry was the driving force behind the economic development of Russia’s Northern capital and one of the most important sectors of Russia’s national economy.

”St. Petersburg is a beautiful city with a long history. It has always served as a point of dialogue between Russia and Europe. The beauty of St. Petersburg, its expertise and, of course, its good people allow the city to host events of the highest level!” said Kai Hattendorf, UFI’s Managing Director.

He also added that all the participants were happy with ExpoForum as the venue. “The venue has everything you’d need: hotels, a congress center and large exhibition pavilions. Moreover, it is located near the airport, so it’s very convenient. I hope that many will mark ExpoForum as an ideal venue for their events.”


Conferences, Sessions and Networking

The main topic of the anniversary congress is “Dynamic Development as the Key to the Future of the Exhibition Industry.” The business program included more than 20 sessions all in all. Besides summarizing the results of UFI’s work and discussing the plans for the next year, the participants discussed digital transformation of the industry, the strategic role of HR in the industry, the cutting-edge event industry technologies, UFI’s best practices, the spheres of business tourism, interregional and international cooperation and much more.

The General Assembly of the UFI was held on the first day of the Congress, where the participants talked about the most recent events and developments in the industry. On the same day, the participants heard the presentations of several destinations, including RSA, Japan, Qatar and other countries.

The morning of November 1 started with a traditional morning jog at 6:30, followed by then official opening ceremony. Special sessions dedicated to the economy, digital transformation and other important topics took up a full day. The keynote speaker from Russia was Sergey Ryazansky, Russian test cosmonaut, the world’s first scientists who served as the commander of a space mission. Sergei Ryazansky inspired his audience by sharing a story about adapting quickly  to changing challenges and expectations, and shared his experience of how nations from around the world work together to manage the most unique competition venue on the planet - the International Space Station.


MICE Potential of the Country

On November 2, as part of the Business Program of the UFI Global Congress, the experts discussed the outlook for development of the congress and exhibition industry in Russia. The participants were addressed by Vladimir Katenev, member of the State Duma of the Russian Federation. He noted that holding of such an important event of the industry in St. Petersburg, attended by industry experts from around the world, underscores the contribution of our compatriots to the development of the global congress and exhibition market.

Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation Georgy Kalamanov said that exhibitions and fairs have always been developing very dynamically in Russia.  “Russia has never before hosted the Global Congress. Now we are competing for this honor. During major international events, such as the Olympic Games in Sochi and the FIFA World Cup, we have proven that we can hold such events at the highest level. And you can see this for yourselves, as the UFI Congress, too, has been organized at the highest level,” Mr. Kalamanov said.

The potential of St. Petersburg as a destination for exhibitions and congresses was presented by Yevgeny Pankevich, Chairman of the St. Petersburg City Committee for the Development of Tourism. He said that the congress and exhibition infrastructure in St. Petersburg includes 480 congress and exhibition facilities, including 12 congress and exhibition complexes and 120 congress hotels.

The speaker added that the city planned to attract more than 1,100,000 business tourists to come to St. Petersburg in 2019. To this end, St. Petersburg will be implementing the state program entitled “Development of the Tourism Sector in St. Petersburg,” which will incorporate the priority project under the title “Development of Congress and Exhibition Activities in St. Petersburg.”
Sergey Voronkov, CEO of ExpoForum International, talked about the measures being undertaken to increase the flow of business tourists to ExpoForum, Russia’s best convention and exhibition center. “ExpoForum was built taking into account the actual demands of the market and specific event riders. ExpoForum is currently the only venue in Russia built with consideration for the best world practices and specifically intended for holding worldwide congresses,” the speaker said. “Every year, more than 200 events take place at ExpoForum, and the venue welcomes over 1 million visitors. The facility’s calendar is completely booked until 2023.”


Showcase of Russian Culture

The UFI Congress was accompanied by an extensive cultural program. A jazz supper was organized on October 30 for the Executive Committee of the UFI. On the next day, ExpoForum hosted a gala reception with the theme of space exploration. The guests of the evening heard the performance of Symphony Orchestra “Tavrichesky”, and the music was accompanied by a series of pictures taken from space. The photos were provided by Sergey Ryazansky.

On November 1, the delegates were invited to a gala dinner on behalf of the Government of St. Petersburg. The dinner was arranged in the Catherine Palace in Pushkin. The cultural program of the event included a tour of the palace, with a visit to the Amber Room. A polonaise from the Eugene Onegin opera was performed for the delegates of the congress and the Acting Governor of St. Petersburg. Another special gift for the guests of the event was the adagio from the Raymonda ballet performed by leading dancers of the Mikhailovsky Theater troupe: Irina Perren - Honored Artist of Russia, prima ballerina, Mariya Dmitriyenko - lead ballerina, and Marat Shemiunov, winner of international competitions. The participants in the event also went on a sightseeing tour of St. Petersburg. During a visit to the Peter and Paul Fortress, Kai Hattendorf, Sergey Alekseev and Sergey Voronkov fired the midday shot from cannon.



The authorities of St. Petersburg have long realized the need for the development of congress and exhibition activities. The government has developed a state program to help improve the quality of services in the sphere of tourism, diversify the range of such services and establish tourism as the driving force behind the economic development of the city. Thanks to the program, by 2023 the share of tourism in the GRP is expected to reach 6%. Within the next several years, ExpoForum is expected to hold a dozen international congresses, and such events as the UFI congress can help increase this number considerably.

Events rescheduled
New dates will be announced later
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