by Richard John, events industry consultant
A serious column, this month.
The world is a bit of a crap place at the moment; aside from the usual problems of poverty, pollution and inequality, there are a bunch of psychotic, violent thugs who’ve hijacked a perfectly acceptable religion (and I write that as an atheist) for reasons that are completely lost on anyone with a three figure IQ.
I come from a generation that grew up with the shadow of the IRA bombings around us. It was occasionally violent, frequently disruptive but – for all the implicit evil – it was a campaign where it was possible to see a purpose to the perpetrators’ misguided tactics.
Last month we were reminded of the bombings in London in 2005, and I still shed a private tear for friends and colleagues who suffered terrible personal loss.
But the city and the country recovered quickly. Would you, as an organiser, venue or supplier have discouraged your clients to carry on meeting in the capital in the days and weeks that followed?
Or consider the US, where unbalanced locals and insane gun laws frequently lead to unbridled mayhem across the nation – not even churches are safe. Would you ever advise clients not to attend or organise events across the pond?
I hope the answer is ‘no’. So I want you to think about the appalling slaughter in Tunisia.
The attack in Sousse and the earlier murders at the Bardo Museum were designed to scare away visitors. And, as the Foreign Office has now advised all UK visitors to leave, it would seem the bad guys have won.
So, a bit of education. Tunisia is a nation of 11m people and 63,000 square miles – or twice the size of Scotland. It is classy, beautiful and sophisticated. It has an efficient and effective tourism infrastructure, and burgeoning conference and meetings sector.
And in 2011 the people of Tunisia risked everything for the right to free elections and everything that goes with them. If you or your clients are planning meetings in that country then I would urge you to stand fast. There isn’t a country that hasn’t been the victim of terrorism, so running to the hills can never be a strategy.
A final thought. All the world’s worst disasters – natural or man-made – have been addressed and challenged with conferences. The process may be slow and cumbersome, but take heart. Meetings change the world for the better.
When we meet, we triumph.