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11 October 2018

St. Petersburg has become a site for truly major events

Proxy Centre General Director Sergey Lazutkin has given an interview about the market for event services in St. Petersburg and Russia.

Q: Some people believe that St. Petersburg is still not ready to host major events and that the city does not have sufficient infrastructure for a large number of guests. Do you agree with this statement?

A: I don’t think I could agree with this opinion because St. Petersburg is a city where all the conditions have already been created to host truly major events, be it sporting, business, scientific, or cultural events. St. Petersburg has all the necessary infrastructure for this, as does Moscow.

Q: What does this infrastructure include?

A: There should be a special platform for major events. In St. Petersburg, ExpoForum serves as such a platform. It’s a modern complex in which you can hold almost any event of any scale. For example, there were roughly 17,000 people in attendance this year at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Q: What else is important?

A: There has to be a sufficient number of hotels of various categories for guests. St. Petersburg has enough hotels in the high price segment and in economy class for large-scale events. A lot of facilities were commissioned for the World Cup, in particular. The next issue is well-developed transport infrastructure. We need full-fledged transportation hubs. Our city also has a modern airport, railway stations, etc.

As for local and small-scale events, in addition to the major facilities, we may utilize some hotels and smaller convention venues of which there are plenty in the city.

Q: Do you think there is a difference in how major not-so-large events are organized in Russia and abroad? How are they held differently?

A: In principle, the set of requirements for organizing events is the same everywhere. [Such requirements include] the availability of a site equipped with the necessary equipment, sound transport logistics, accommodation for participants, catering, etc. In addition, I would note that the level of hospitality during events in Russia is much higher than it is in the West. During events, in addition to the business programme, participants have an opportunity to get acquainted with our culture.

In terms of how event organization is changing, there have been improvements in all services, of course. Above all else, modern technologies have been integrated into the event organization process at all stages. We are creating more comfortable organizational solutions for participants and optimizing transport logistics, among other things.

Q: How would you describe the development level of the market for event organization services in St. Petersburg?

A: Along with Moscow, the market in St. Petersburg has the largest capacity compared with other cities of Russia. According to the rating for the event potential of the Russian regions compiled annually by analysts from R&C Exhibition Research Centre, St. Petersburg has had a firm grip on first place in recent years [Moscow is excluded from the study as a city with a deliberately higher level of event industry development than other regions]. There aren’t so many companies in our city that have the ability to provide comprehensive turnkey services for the organization of convention and exhibition activities. We can confidently say that our company, Proxy Centre, is included in this number. Most operators provide individual services or deal with local organizational tasks.

Q: Some data suggests that the capacity of the Russian event organization market may exceed USD 100 million per year. Do you agree with this assessment?

A: I think it far exceeds [that figure]. According to the official data of the International Congress and Convention Association, the global market for this industry is estimated at USD 800 billion in 2017, with Russia accounting for USD 250 million, or more than RUB 16 billion [2017 ICCA Statistics Report. Country & City Rankings].

Q: How can companies working in the event industry compete?

A: I believe companies that are capable of fulfilling the whole range of tasks set by the event organizer are more competitive.

Q: What events did you hold on a turnkey basis and which events have you taken part in as an organizer of a part of the services?

A: As regards events that we prepared on a turnkey basis, I would start with the first World Olympians Forum in October 2015 based on orders from the Russian Olympic Committee and the organization of the ECOTECH International Exhibition and Forum based on orders from the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

As for individual services, we have been cooperating with the Roscongress Foundation for many years and taking part in the organization of a large number of events. If we’re talking about the most ambitious projects, it would undoubtedly be the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, during which Proxy Centre was responsible for organizing transport services and running information and transportation desks. The project involved more than 2,000 vehicles and several thousand people to organize the work.

We began preparing for this project six months in advance, and the operational part itself lasted almost two months: it began three weeks before the start of the championship and ended a few days after its completion.

Q: Does the Russian market have enough specialists for events and how can they be grown? Has the staffing problem become more acute as the number of events held in St. Petersburg expands?

A: Our company employs people, many of whom got their first work experience during the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. I can confidently say that SPIEF has raised and will continue to raise a lot of specialists in the event industry. Our employees (about 100 people) are people with different kinds of higher education – both humanitarian and technical – and work experience in this field.

There are no educational institutions in the country that produce experts in convention and exhibition activities. But perhaps such a major will appear later. For now, these specialists are acquiring their core skills by taking part in various projects.

Q: To what extent did the 2018 World Cup impact the development of the event industry in Russia?

A: The first thing I would note is that a very large number of people were involved in preparing for and holding the championship. They acquired diverse organizational skills which I am certain will be in demand in the event industry market.

The second thing is the renovated infrastructure that can be used when organizing events.

Q: How will the domestic event market continue to develop?

A: First and foremost, it will begin to grow in cities where there have been major state and international events over the last decade. It will develop due to an increase in the number of events held in these cities. This will absolutely occur because conventions and forums are an effective and popular format for interaction between representatives of the business community.