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APAIE 2020 postponed due to global impact of COVID-19 outbreak

The international education sector has rallied behind organisers of the 2020 Asia Pacific Association for International Education conference, after the announcement that the event will be postponed due to the coronavirus.

APAIE 2020 Vancouver was set to host more than 2,500 attendees, but has been postponed until 2021. Photo: APAIE

The conference will be held in the same venue in March 2021

Due to be held in Vancouver on March 22-26, the APAIE conference will now be held in the same venue in the Canadian city in March 2021.

In an email to attendees, Sarah Todd vice president (Global) at Griffith University and APAIE event organiser said because of World Health Organisation advisories and an increasing number of travel restrictions meant there “was little choice” but to postpone the 2020 event.

“The health and well-being of the APAIE community… [is] the priority”

“We have taken the very difficult decision to postpone APAIE 2020 in light of the global impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, and the conference will now be held in March 2021, in Vancouver,” she explained.

“The health and well-being of the APAIE community, as well as that of our local host community, are the priority.

“The travel restrictions in place are changing daily and it is important that the many friends and colleagues wanting to attend what is now the flagship event for international education in the Asia Pacific are able to,” she added.

APAIE 2020 was set to host more than 2,500 attendees, and preparations had been underway for two years, Todd noted. It was also to be the first APAIE conference to be held in the Americas.

“These are indeed challenging times for the international education sector and, on a personal note, I would like to extend my thanks for your understanding and support of this decision to postpone APAIE 2020,” Todd continued.

“We are all disappointed and your messages have meant a lot to me at a difficult time.”

The postponement means that APAIE 2021 due to take place in Bangkok, Thailand has been rescheduled to 2022.

APAIE 2021 was set to be held in Auckland, New Zealand, before a fire disrupted construction plans at the conference centre, resulting in organisers relocating it.

Elsewhere, the Association of Language Travel Organisations has also postponed its conference until next year. The event was due to be held in Rome from March 20-22.

Organisers of ALTO 2020 in Rome said they had “tried not to give in to the panic driven by the media”, but decided to postpone the event due to flight cancellations, and governments requesting travellers from Italy to self-quarantine for 14 days. A result of that had been more than 15 people cancelling their trip to the event.

“It is clear that coronavirus is going to have a significant impact on members’ businesses,” event organisers said. “It is at times of crisis such as this that we need to work together as an association to ensure the survival of industry in general and our own businesses in particular.”

ALTO will facilitate a Webex conference call about the implications of coronavirus on businesses, they added.

Head of International Relations at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland’s School of Business Robert Buttery said it was a “difficult but timely decision”, but APAIE had “the full solidarity and support of #intled community”.

Simon Fraser University was due to host the event in March 2021.

SFU vice-president Research & International, Joy Johnson, said despite no longer hosting APAIE 2020, the institution looks forward to welcoming higher education colleagues to Vancouver in 2021.

“Our thoughts are with our colleagues around the world impacted by COVID-19,” Johnson said on social media.

Executive director of BCCIE Randall Martin told The PIE News it was with “great regret” that the event was postponed, but the event had been “appearing less likely by the day”.

The organisation had been working with SFU as the local organising committee.

“We were not surprised by the decision, but it was not one taken easily or lightly; all involved are very sad but believe it is the right thing to do, and at the right time, in order to allow people at least a few weeks to get their travel affairs in order,” he said.

“We are working with hotels, providers, the professional conference organiser, any number of parties, to see how we can minimise loss and disruption this year and see how see can transition as much of the work as we can, the investments and deposits and the planning and the goodwill towards 2021,” Martin added.

“We are hoping many of the presenters are able to stay committed, and we are working with our keynote and featured speakers to see if they might still be able to join us. How will [2021] be different? Bigger and better we hope.”

CBIE president and CEO Larissa Bezo added, “[our] thoughts are with our APAIE, SFU and partner BC institutions, and BCCIE colleagues as they operationalise this difficult decision”, and that CBIE looks forward to engaging at APAIE 2021 Vancouver in a “mere 12 months”.

Director of Germany’s University of Bayreuth’s international office Arnim Heinemann noted he was grateful the APAIE team was ready to prepare for the important event again.

“Our thoughts are with our colleagues around the world impacted by COVID-19”

“As much as I regret that this sensible decision had to be taken, we are in this together and I would be happy to help in any way needed,” he wrote online.

Regional Educational Advising Coordinator for Northeast Asia and the Pacific at EducationUSA Vincent Flores thanked Todd for “putting safety first”, adding, “Perhaps this is a time for us all to consider some ways to connect virtually”.

“International education may take a hit this year but we can work together for a comeback!” Flores concluded.

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