AIN Blog: Competing ATC Conferences Count Their Votes

 - October 28, 2012, 7:25 PM
A campaign button advertises the ATM World Congress
Campaign-style buttons advertising the ATM World Congress were distributed to people attending the Atca conference in early October.

It’s not the U.S. presidential election, but it’s similarly hard-fought and bitter. In a previous post, we reported on the showdown between ATC Global, the long-established ATC conference run by global media company UBM, and the upstart World ATM Congress, advanced by the Netherlands-based Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (Canso) “in association” with the Air Traffic Control Association (Atca) of the U.S. The dueling conferences have forced the worldly, but close-knit, ATC community to either support both events or choose between them.

The first World ATM Congress will be held from February 12 to 14 in Madrid; the 23rd ATC Global will convene March 12 to 14 in Amsterdam. With the two events fast approaching, the two sides have congealed. Some of the major equipment and technology providers that anchored the exhibit floor in years past at ATC Global in Amsterdam have decamped to ATM World Congress in Madrid. The organizers of the ATM World Congress claim to have exclusive commitments from companies including Boeing, Harris, Lockheed Martin, Saab Sensis, Thales and UK NATS. In early October, they reported signing or negotiating contracts with 128 exhibitors.

Later in the month, ATC Global said it had 110 exhibitors signed, about half the number that showed their wares at the 2012 event. Companies that will not exhibit in 2013 were reportedly being encouraged to give presentations on the show floor, which non-exhibitors could not do in the past. Visitor registration was running 8 percent ahead of the number at this time last year.

When Canso folded its tent and moved to Madrid, the annual Jane’s Airport Review awards and associated dinner followed. ATC Global struck a partnership with Air Traffic Management magazine for the new ATC Global Excellence Awards. The World ATM Congress bills itself as “an international event created for the ATM industry, by the ATM industry.” ATC Global is branding itself as “The Independent View of the Skies.”

Given that Canso is the main organization representing the world’s air navigation service providers (ANSPs), the odds would appear to favor the World ATM Congress (in Madrid) surviving over ATC Global in the long run. Recently, Canso drew even closer to the main customer base of ANSPs—the airlines—by naming as its new director general Jeff Poole, an International Air Transport Association executive, effective January 1. Poole replaces Graham Lake, who stepped down abruptly from the organization last July.

Still, staging a successful industry conference can be tricky. At the Atca conference in early October in National Harbor, Md., Peter Dumont, Atca president and CEO, polled the audience on whether it had heard about the coming World ATM Congress. Seventy percent of respondents to the electronic poll said they had; 30 percent had not. But when he followed up by asking how many people planned to attend the Congress, the results came back a mirror opposite. Only 30 percent of respondents were making plans for Madrid. Dumont acknowledged that clearly more work needs to be done.


As a long term exhibitor at the ATC global I am disappointed by the needless competition between these events. I have been attending the ATC conference, first in Maastricht and latterly in Amsterdam for 16 years with various companies and always looked forward to the event as the chance to meet clients, industry colleagues and friends. I think that with any industry it is good to have a Main Event, an unmissable part of the calender that inspires both industry and clients to come out and meet. For the ATM community that event has traditionally been the ATC Global, I think personally that it would have been more advantageous for all concerned if the Madrid Conference was later in the year, say in September/October then I could have exhibited in both without a problem.

With the split in numbers caused by the competition between the Madrid Conference and the Amsterdam Exhibition I fear that both will be diminished. I would urge that for 2014, either CANSO/ATCA or UBM shift the timeline to have thier event with a reasonable interval between them.

The Eurocentric locations of the conferences also causes unnecessary competition since the same audience is being vied for. Why not have the Second ATM conference in the USA, Singapore or DuBai in September, to allow exhibitors and clients some choice and reach other farther markets.

I believe that there is room for two events in the calendar and hope that sense will prevail in 2014.

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