UIA Survey 2021– COVID-19 Impact on International Association Meetings

The Union of International Associations (UIA) launches an extraordinary Survey amongst 25,000 international associations


By Clara Fernández López, External Relations Manager of the Union of International Associations and Member of the Executive Board of the International Youth Library Foundation

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on the global travel and meetings industry and on the meetings behaviour of international associations. Exploring that impact and finding out the consequences is the focus of this special UIA Survey 2021 – COVID-19 Impact on International Association Meetings. The Survey will try to determine the changes in approach of associations when planning and organizing their international events: the shift in their needs, expectations and technological approach.

More than 25,000 organizations listed in UIA’s Yearbook of International Organizations and known to have any kind of international meeting or event activity are invited to participate in this  UIA Survey 2021 to uncover changes which associations are experiencing, expecting and planning to be fundamental in the future organization of their events.

For this purpose, the association is asked to invest 10 minutes and to complete a Survey with 19 questions – 15 of these with multiple choice answers. While only the association’s individual login will allow it to enter the Survey site and to respond to the questions, no personal and no associations’ details will be processed or published in the final Survey Report. The Report will be released on 18 November 2021 at the annual UIA Associate Members Meeting in Prague and be freely available to the public on the UIA’s website.

Both the Survey and the Report will be released in three languages: English, French and Spanish.

The UIA Surveys are the largest surveys looking into the meetings behaviour of all the diverse types of international associations around the world representing civic, charitable, commercial, or industrial interests.

The comprehensive Report will describe, in text, graphics and tables, how associations are dealing with the aftermath of the pandemic impact and the areas of concern for associations, focusing mainly on their meeting activities: dealing with events cancelled and/or changed in their format, perspectives for re-establishment of in-person programmes, technology challenges, the role of social media, the economic impact on the associations’ future, their expectations in a relationship with Convention Bureaus, etc.

High rates of participation make the UIA Surveys an indispensable source of information for all branches involved in the meetings industry. UIA contacts the associations by sending postal invitations to 15,000 organizations, alongside 25,000 monthly email invitations. Reaching so many international associations is a major challenge. For the UIA Survey 2021 and the Report the UIA is being supported by its sponsors Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau, Seoul Tourism Organization and Polish Tourism Organisation - Poland Convention Bureau.

The most recent edition of the regular, bi-annual Survey was held in 2020 (report freely available). It revealed that 82% of respondents hold at least one major international meeting every three years. 44% of these associations hold their meetings annually. 54% of meetings have a length of two to three days.

The Survey showed that, in 2020, 41% of the associations responding did not offer options for remote participation in their meetings. 21% were not considering options for remote participation or interaction at all. We expect this forthcoming Survey may show a shift in this behaviour.

While in 2020 33% of international associations worldwide were not yet familiar with the free services offered by a Convention Bureau and only 12% had ever used those free services of a Convention Bureau, it is probable that the need for more technical support will show an increase in interest in these partnerships in the 2021 Survey.

The forthcoming Survey 2021 will investigate how the impact of health issues and travel restrictions may influence the topics to be covered and the need for interaction between the meetings industry and international associations.  And it should reveal the fields where associations and industry can cooperate in order to redefine events and make association congresses, meetings, conferences, etc. a success for everyone – the association, the delegates and consequently for the destination.

The UIA was founded in 1907 in Brussels with the aim of researching the life of international associations, regardless of location or field of activities. Today the UIA is the world's oldest, largest, and most comprehensive source of information on global civil society. The UIA collects, hosts, and provides up-to-date, reliable information on global civil society and maintains the most comprehensive source of information on international associations, their activities and concerns, and their meetings activities.

The UIA also promotes the work of international associations by organizing surveys such as this one, and educational activities such as the Round Table.

The UIA publishes the Yearbook of International Organizations which includes detailed information on over 41,000 active and approximately 32,000 dormant international organizations from 300 countries and territories. Approximately 1,200 new organizations are added each year.