Saudi Arabia’s fourth annual Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference will be held physically – not virtually – in late October this year, despite the challenges associated with in-person meetings amid the coronavirus pandemic, a top organizer of the event said.
FII is one of the world’s leading economic forums, with key world leaders, business moguls and investors coming together to discuss challenges, trends and opportunities that are shaping the global landscape. In 2019, attendees included India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and presidential adviser Jared Kushner.
“As of today, it is physical … I think virtual events are OK, but it’s not, to be honest, the best way to definitely do business together. It is not the best way to talk about big investments. You cannot make deals of billions of dollars and investment of billions of dollars just through virtual conversation,” Richard Attias, the founder of communications firm Richard Attias & Associates told Gulf newspaper Arab News.
Over 1,200 delegates and 70 speakers have already confirmed their attendance for the event, Arab News reported, set to be held October 28-29.
“This shows you, number one, the optimism that people want to have. People want to be back together. It’s very important,” Attias said.
Virtual events have seen a surge in popularity as the coronavirus pandemic has left countries in lockdown as authorities seek to prevent the spread of the deadly virus. There are, however, significant downsides associated with this trend, Attias explained.
“People are quite frustrated to be obliged to be locked down or to not travel anymore. I think we want to be a live community and not just the virtual community in our society,” he said, Arab News reported.
“I really hope and wish beyond the business that we’ll be 100 percent physical. And I hope that by the end of October we will not be facing more challenges in terms of health.”
Earlier this year, Attias was chosen as CEO of the FII Institute, a not-for-profit foundation behind the annual FII conference in Saudi Arabia. The group has already held several virtual conferences, with another set to take place later this week.
“It helped us to be more and more in touch with different stakeholders and different global CEOs,” Attias explained of the Institute, according to Arab News.
“And I only hear very positive feedback. The business community is looking in a very positive way to the Kingdom and definitely the Chinese, Americans, Europeans, and even Africans want to come to the Kingdom and to see what they can do in the Kingdom and with the Kingdom,” he said.