EPCA virtual event to levy ‘moderate’ fees amid pandemic - CEO

Author: Jonathan Lopez


LONDON (ICIS)--The European Petrochemical Association (EPCA) is to run its annual meeting virtually again this year but, unlike in 2020, delegates will have to pay “very moderate” fees for registrations, according to the CEO at the industry group.

Caroline Ciuciu said the pandemic has put a strain on the EPCA’s finances and it had to come up with a fee system for this year’s event, to run on 5-7 October, after the group confirmed in May that it would not be running an in-person event.

The head of the trade body said the event will be enhanced from last year’s edition, which did not charge fees, and it will be “meaningful and inspiring” so petrochemicals players would find it useful to network.

She conceded that the EPCA made a loss in 2020 and was likely to be in the red again in 2021, but added that “reserves” from previous years have allowed the group to weather the storm.

Its last in-person event in 2019 attracted 2,500 registered, fee-paying delegates, with many more taking part on the sidelines.

The networking event is the largest in the European petrochemicals industry; regional and global petrochemicals players discuss the industry and often close deals for the following months and quarters.

Ciuciu had already said in an interview in 2020 that if restrictions to mobility globally or social distancing measures were to persist in 2021, the group would need to seek additional revenue streams to cope. The EPCA’s main activity is to run the annual event.

“Last year we didn’t charge any registration fees, to help our community [the petrochemicals industry]. This year, we will offer very moderate registration fees, and we have developed a new ticketing system under which group registrations will reduce the fees per delegate,” said Ciuciu.

“They will not be high fees, and I think we will be able to attract participants with the interesting options we will offer.”

The decision to run a virtual event is irreversible, said Ciuciu; although it was announced in May, the EPCA had already taken the decision in April, she explained.

At the time, the EU’s vaccination campaign was lagging and major economies in Europe remained under lockdown measures to contain the pandemic. While EU vaccinations took off in the second quarter, new coronavirus variants have yet again prompted travel restrictions in Europe.

“Having taken into consideration the overall environment, the type of the audience, the different countries around the world they come from, and the logistics of organising an event of this dimension, the board of directors decided not to run an in-person event,” said Ciuciu.

“We assessed all possibilities, and we consulted experts in Germany [the event would have taken place in Berlin] about the potential protocols but having considered all different aspects we thought it wasn’t possible to offer our community an in-person event that would be worthwhile.”

But the strain on the EPCA’s financials also necessitated establishing fees for the virtual event, she added, without disclosing how much the fees would be.

“The pandemic had a negative impact on our finances last year, when we dealt with a lot, but we have implemented measures to cover the potential loss: charging registration fees for the annual meeting is one of them, but we have also followed strict cost management policies,” said Ciuciu.

“We had reserves that we have built over the years, to cover for potential risks, so we are using that money that we put aside over previous years to manage the risk presented by the pandemic.”

The full programme for that event, she added, will be announced in July, as well as the fees.

“This year we will really offer an improved version of the sessions of last year, with strategic dialogues, workshops, sessions on digitalisation in the supply chain or diversity and inclusion, for example,” said the CEO.

“Digital platforms have improved greatly in the past 18 months, and we are doing our best to offer all member companies a meaningful event in October.”

Ciuciu said last year more than 1,000 participants had registered for the free  sessions within the EPCA annual event.

The events and conferences sector, battered by the pandemic in 2020, is not finding much consolation in 2021 due to persistent global travel restrictions. Events such as the EPCA’s annual meeting attract participants from across the globe and the pandemic in much of the world is far from being under control.

Earlier this week, the European Coatings Show (ECS) organisers also announced they were cancelling their event in October, only three weeks after saying it would go ahead.

In the US, the American Fuel & Petrochemicals Manufacturers (AFPM) trade group has said its International Petrochemical Conference (IPC), the largest networking event in the Americas for the industry, will be held in October in San Antonio, Texas.

Ciuciu said she “would not dare” to judge what other event organisers are doing on the back of the challenging outlook the pandemic has posed for them.

“It is a hard decision, and one size doesn’t fit all and there are many things to take into consideration. While the ECS has been cancelled, AFPM has decided to move forward with its event in October: every decision should be respected,” she said.

“I have a lot of respect for other organisers of events – it has been a very challenging time for all of us.”

The IPC normally takes place in March; initially, AFPM was expecting to hold the 2021 meeting in March, but the realities of the pandemic forced two postponements, first from March to May and then from May to October.

Front page picture source: EPCA 

Interview article by Jonathan Lopez