|Business Must Go As Usual|
The Georgian International Oil, Gas, Infrastructure and Energy Conference and Showcase (GIOGIE) is an annual implementation of industry and investment reforms organized by ITE Group PLC, a leading organizer of trade exhibitions and conferences. The GIOGIE conference offers participants the opportunity to meet possibilities for carrying out the reforms of the government and of other key members of the Georgian, Kaspian and Black sea region’s oil and gas industry. The showcase provides an excellent opportunity to market products and services via display stands.
After being organized for seven years in a row, the 8th annual GIOGIE was put under a big question mark due to the current political situation in the country. However, GIOGIE 2009 will take place in the Sheraton Metechi Palace as usual, on April 2nd-3rd.
The latest GIOGIE in 2008 attracted over 250 delegates from 15 countries and the conference was officially supported by the Prime Minister of Georgia, the Ministry of Energy of Georgia, the Ministry of Economic Development, and the Georgian Oil and Gas Corporation (GOGC).
Georgia Today spoke with Graeme S. Coombes, Head of the Division of Oil and Gas at ITE Group, and Mako Abashidze, Director of the British-Georgian Chamber of Commerce (BGCC) about the upcoming 8th annual conference.
GC: The conference will look at number of different topics. Obviously we hope to have a political session to get moving. I met earlier today with the Director General of the Georgian Oil and Gas Corporation (GOGC), he is invited to take part as well as to speak during the conference. Both of these organizations, the Ministry of Energy and the GOGC will endorse the event. So the conference programme is slightly more detailed this year. My background is conference programming more than exhibitions, so we’ve tried to take the program and develop it somehow to give people some real learning benefits from the event. We hope to have an opening session about the politics of oil and gas in Georgia and we also hope to look at the one-strip project, which is a proposed pipeline that will take oil and gas again through Georgia and potentially link it up with Western Europe. We were keen to have them involved, as we hope that they will bring some other countries along to the event. Obviously most of these oil and gas projects are international and therefore we bring other countries in as well. We will also look at some exploration and production while Georgia is mainly a transit route for oil and gas coming from the East. We’ll also be looking at some exploration and production that’s going on within Georgia and I would like to have a session focusing on investment opportunities, investing money in the oil and gas industry. The whole two-day program will have something for everybody working in oil and gas, and I’m sure you will find the program very interesting.
GT: Who are the official sponsors of GIOGIE 2009?
GC: We have a number of people that are involved and have sponsored it in previous years and we are currently in the process of finalizing it again. We had BP sponsoring last year and we are very hopeful that they will do so again, Statoil as well, SOCAR from Azerbaijan has been involved previously and we are looking forward to involve them again, as well as Batumi Oil Terminal and a number of people who have been sponsoring previously and are looking to come back again. Our message is Business As Usual, and some of the sponsors are making that commitment also.
GT: How does the government of Georgia support the conference?
GC: The government of Georgia has in the past endorsed the conference and they have provided speakers for the event. The Minister of Energy, Alexander Khetaguri, spoke last year and I think he spoke previously when he was a head of GOGC, before he moved from GOGC to the Ministry of Energy.
GT: How successfully does the event grow compared to previous years?
GC: The conference has grown each year in terms of delegate numbers and people attending the event. This year we will have to see how things turn out, I can’t tell you whether we have more people or less people. Clearly we have the global issue of the political situation, but there is also the global economic downturn, which in my estimation is affecting oil and gas industry less than its affecting other industries such as construction and manufacturing. We certainly are finding people who are concerned about the economic circumstances but it’s not quite as bad as for people working in real estate. I’m hopeful that these are two issues that won’t affect the attendance too much and I’m confident, certainly I have people in London who are working on bringing people to the conference and there is another team in Baku who are also working on bringing people to the event. We have a lot of people in lots of offices working to bring people to Tbilisi.
GT: Do you think that the recent political events may be an issue while talking about the number of delegates?
GC: That’s something that we need to look at and there is an issue people need to know about. A number of people put money in Georgia previously and they come again and hear about how the circumstances are. But I think it also provides opportunities as anybody who hasn’t previously looked at Georgia should come and see what’s happening. I’ve only been here for a couple of days but I really find it very interesting. I think what we are looking at in the program is a significant development of what we’ve been offering in previous years. I think there are some compelling matters within the program that people will want to hear about. The issue of gas supply to Western Europe is very, very topical not just for what has been happening in Georgia, but obviously what has been going on next door in Ukraine and Russia has made people in Europe very aware of the political significance of energy supply. So for these issues alone, I think people should be willing to come along to Tbilisi and find out what’s happening.
GT: What are advantages of the GIOGIE in general?
GC: ITE puts together exhibitions and conferences. But people that I’ve met are speaking very highly of us as an organizer of oil and gas conferences and exhibitions. Our KIOGE event in Almaty is very well-known and so many people go to that event because you have to be there. That is our biggest event and we organize all our other events in a similar way. I hope that everybody attending the GIOGIE will know that we do put together good events so they will look up the programme and see that it is interesting, look at our speakers and say that we have the right people attending and they will work it out very quickly.
GT: As you have said before, it’s only been a couple of months since you started to work with ITE. Do you have any innovations planned for this conference comparing to previous years?
GC: There are two things that I’m trying to do, and that I am taking personal responsibility for. I have a team of programmers who put most of our conferences together but I decided to take personal charge of this particular event. One of the things I am trying to do is to give the programme much more depth, to have a more compelling content so that people read it and benefit from it. The other thing is that I don’t want to have people getting up and making speech after speech after speech. I think it’s very important that we have some intellectual discussion, some roundtable debates, and audience participation. So if people come to the GIOGIE they are not just going to be talked at by speakers; but they will have a full opportunity to participate in the event themselves.
GT: Mako, what is the role of the BGCC in the conference?
Mako Abashidze: First of all, we are proud that ITE is our honored member company. Secondly, I have attended the conferences 2007 and 2008 and I can say, as because of my job I travel a lot and I visit a lot of companies, this particular conference is very important for Georgia, firstly because it is regional. You can have a lot of local conferences dedicated to the Georgian economy, but this is a regional conference covering the entire neighborhood of the country. And secondly: the topics, the people and the exhibitors, the network are all just fantastic. That was my first impression - very special, very unique people, and then it’s so easy to follow up the business. I remember when Graeme first phoned us and said that he is going to continue the tradition and is determined to organize the conference, I liked the way he put it: “we feel like business should go as usual” so that sounds like a slogan. We are very pleased to whatever we can do for ITE, but talking about a bigger picture - that is why we are here. We are very much interested to do these little things, every single phone-call from the UK side, as we are a UK-based company because we are in London, we can assist any company in very positive, practical, easy ways. If you call we can tell you how to fly here, to find the right people to meet, the places to stay, because we have some hotels who are members of the chamber. So that’s how we see our role here.