By its very nature, logistics is an international industry linking countries around the world, and there are already many large, established, global cargo conferences. Yet, what was missing until now, was a boutique focus on a highly diverse region with a great deal of potential: Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). World of Freight (WOF) aims to fill that gap and is off to a good start.
CFG interviewed WOF Events Chief Commercial Officer, Christoph Grasl, last week, and then
took a look for itself at what the Vienna WOF Summit on 04-05MAY22 had to offer.
Two concepts – one goal
Paging through the well-laid out official WOF magazine, promising “2 days of constant opportunities”, the words WOF EXPO and WOF SUMMIT keep recurring. Christoph Grasl explains the difference: The Expo, as took place in Bratislava, Slovakia, in OCT21, is a travelling exhibition that will be held in a different CEE country each time. Every year, logistics stakeholders with an interest in CEE will be offered the opportunity to host a stand at a 2-day expo, and connect with like-minded business partners – alongside an innovations award ceremony and selected panel discussions. The next Expo will take place on 12-13OCT22, this time in Prague, Czech Republic.
The WOF Summit, on the other hand, will always take place in Vienna, Austria. Though it also offers the opportunity for booths, its primary focus will be on a 2-day agenda of exclusive discussion panels and keynote presentations around core topics facing the logistics industry: digitalization, e-commerce, and sustainability (in all its facets – the current summit picked up on the issues of attracting talent, for example, as well as sustainable real estate, and the EU’s 2030 Climate Target). The common goal of the two event types, is to highlight what the CEE region is doing and has to offer, to network, and to share ideas and solutions. Interested parties can already begin to plan their Vienna trip for second WOF Summit on 22-23MAR23.
Multi-national, multi-faceted, even multi-modal (a landlocked country nevertheless “multimodally” participating in sea freight via Krems, as the audience learned during a Metrans keynote), Austria’s and, particularly, Vienna’s geographical location is ideal for CEE business connections. It practically sells itself – possibly Vienna International Airport’s thought, too, since – aside from a flyer in the welcome bag (sponsored by Istanbul Airport), and one panel member on the sustainable real estate panel, the home-turf airport was surprisingly not very visible. Unlike its serious cargo competitor and next-door neighbor, Budapest Airport, with a dedicated keynote alongside panel participation, in typical Hungarian hot pepper style.
Something for everyone
As a boutique first event, offered in a hybrid form (physical attendance and live-streamed panel discussions), the WOF Summit attracted around 250 in-person attendees each day, with another roughly 400 online, this time around. Covid still makes planning a little difficult (also in regard to speaker attendance), in addition to limitations brought about by the current geopolitical situation, but “we’re in logistics and known for being flexible,” Christoph Grasl smiles, and the energy of the event was upbeat, with seamless and well-monitored adherence to agenda timings, and the audience interacted well with Slido questions to the panels. Particularly the final panel which looked at “Resilience of Global Supply Chains: Challenges and Solutions”, addressed exactly this need-for-flexibility situation. “Crisis is terrible, but every crisis has positive momentum,” Walter Holzhammer, Austria and Hungary Representative for the Port of Antwerp, and panel moderator, commented. The panel was unanimous in the opinion that investments during a crisis are crucial – be they in infrastructure, warehousing space, decentralization, greater reliability through a number of service providers instead of just one – plus, closer to home solutions where possible. And that latter point shows the importance of a CEE-focused summit, since the CEE region is a perfect alternative for those companies looking to move their suppliers away from larger economic monopolies to a location with competitive price-performance ratio.
Worth it! See you there next year!
Overall, the mix of speakers covered all aspects from airlines, airports, shipping companies, freight forwarders, academic experts, shippers, through to digital solution providers, et al. The speaker gender balance was heading in the right direction on the second day, and the audience was attracted from as far away as India. With agenda topics on “Winning in Supply Chain Management”, “Airports as key stakeholders in logistics”, and “Last mile ecommerce challenges”, “Human Resources – Logistics Leadership of Tomorrow”, and “E-commerce – Challenges and Opportunities for New Business Start-Ups”, to name but a few, there was something for everyone – ideas, information and new business connections. See you there next year!
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