NEW YORK – Emerald, owner of Surf Expo, celebrated another key milestone for both the organization and the expositions industry as a whole. Surf Expo, the largest and longest-running watersports and beach lifestyle marketplace, successfully staged its winter event January 6-8, 2021, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.
“I am extremely proud of our team, partners and the Orange County Convention Center [OCCC] for effectively working together to achieve our common goal of ensuring the health and safety of everyone while on-site at Surf Expo,” Lori Silva, EVP of Emerald’s Retail Group, said.
While the show’s overall size was less than half of the 2020 edition because of COVID-19’s impact, and national and international travel restrictions, buyer-to-exhibitor ratios increased by 23%. This helped drive significant improvements in overall exhibitor satisfaction, with exhibitor net promoter scores increasing by 63% compared to the 2020 event.
Exhibitors echoed that sentiment. Tracy Wilson, National Sales Manager for AHEAD, said, “Surf Expo was a very good experience for our company. We went in with lower-than-normal expectations as far as attendance and order writing due to the pandemic, and by the end of the show we left with the opposite. Surf Expo did a very good job producing an environment where everyone felt safe. I hope other shows use Surf Expo as an example for staging a safe in-person event.”
Building off the momentum of health and safety protocols, and guidelines that were strictly implemented at the International Gift Expo of the Smokies (IGES), the most comprehensive souvenir, resort and specialty gift trade show in the U.S. in November 2020, Emerald developed a Surf Expo-specific health and safety plan for exhibitors, attendees and staff.
The plan aligned with Emerald’s Preparedness, Prevention & Response Plan, and was further tailored to adhere to Orange County’s and the OCCC’s health-and-safety requirements.
“Events at the Orange County Convention Center are implementing multiple health and safety measures to ensure attendees, exhibitors and employees are safe,” said OCCC Executive Director Mark Tester. “As a result, we are one of the only convention centers nationwide that is hosting large-scale conventions – safely and without incident. In January, Surf Expo hosted thousands of attendees in our West Building and I experienced firsthand how the proper social distancing through signage, floor stickers and safety protocols were implemented to create a safe and controlled gathering.”
In addition to Surf Expo’s stringent health-and-safety measures, which included temperature screenings, the required use of face masks at all times, a larger registration-area footprint, the addition of safety concierges, wider aisles with directional signage, floor stickers, hand-sanitizing stations and enhanced cleaning measures, the show’s team worked with Visit Orlando and the OCCC to create a health and safety video for the show’s website to inform, remind and ensure that all exhibitors and attendees complied with health and safety protocols.
Emerald, in strategic alliance with general contractor and partner Shepard, helped set the new standard on how face-to-face, business-to-business events will be produced, starting with IGES and Surf Expo, with plans to support and share this health and safety model for other organizations to implement at future events.
“We are committed to working with client partners, like Emerald, to ensure we are not only at the forefront of adapting the new standards for health and safety necessary to reopen our in-person events; but we are also sharing our knowledge and key learnings with our partners to help accelerate the recovery of our industry,” said Steve Basch, CEO, Shepard.