International gatherings - the UN has them, ICAO, NATO, the EU, ASEAN, the AU - all international organisations have them. What’s more, industries have them, an example of such an international gathering being the Global Sustainable Aviation Summit taking place right now here in Geneva. But why meet in person instead of taking advantage of new technologies such as video conferencing to share and disseminate knowledge and ideas?
Global gatherings create wealth in the immediate area in which they are held. They are an essential part of the business of hotel and exhibition revenues, participants often require accommodation and restaurants and bars as well as transportation also share in the spill over from the global gatherings. When professionals gather to share information they create a ‘buzz’ as these international meetings allow the sharing of new information on happenings in the industry, gaining new perspectives and initiating new partnerships between companies.
For example, a chance meeting between professionals in a lobby during conference sessions could lead to a conversation where ideas are shared and individuals spur each other on to new ways of thinking on mutual issues faced by their respective firms. While discussions could be had via video conferencing, scholars argue that gatherings create temporary hotspots of specific knowledge where knowledge is created and shared. Maskell, Bathelt and Malmberg (2004) conclude in their paper on temporary clusters and knowledge creation, that co-location with peers still offers advantages not easily eroded by technological advances and the forces of globalisation.
Across the globe air transport facilitates global gatherings organised by industry and organisations. Imagine diplomacy without air transport: it would be impossible to get quarrelling sides to sit in a room for debate. In most instances, these events are facilitated by air transport, transporting delegates to Geneva, London, Paris or New York for international talks to diffuse urgent situations. Air transport also facilitates gatherings such as those of the UN, where nations meet to discuss Millennium Development Goals, the Kimberly Process or other crucial global issues.