Strong Advocacy Leads Way to European Countries Opening Exhibitions; Many without Restrictions

CINDY MCDERMOTT, NEWS EDITOR
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GERMANY – Low rates of COVID-19 cases in tandem with advocacy that clearly demonstrated that exhibitions and trade shows are not generic mass gatherings but organized business events that can ensure safe environments is paying dividends in Europe.

With many Asian and Pacific-Rim countries opening its doors to trade shows and exhibitions in July, some European countries are set to open exhibitions unconditionally or with some restrictions as early as September. These include Germany and France with many others making plans to open which will positively impact local and regional economies. The Netherlands and Poland are already open.

“Slowly, governments in other countries are lifting restrictions in general and discussing exhibitions and business events, like in Spain. Poland has allowed shows, and in some countries, the prohibition period ends at the end of June, which hopefully will lead to conditions being defined and small events starting soon,” said Barbara Weizsäecker, Secretary General, European Exhibition Industry Alliance. “Most countries do not plan large exhibitions before September due to long lead times. Further, customers are still being reluctant to come back to the show floor.”

Weizsäecker explained that industry leaders have successfully educated governments of the extreme differences of trade shows and festivals and concerts, and that attendees will be safe and secure while attending events. But while intra-EU travel is now allowed, openings with third countries are under negotiation depending on the pandemic situation and health and safety conditions.

“With more and more governments and authorities across Europe allowing exhibitions and business events to run again, we can restart our industry, and build and operate the market places and meeting places we all need to overcome the recession,” said Kai Hattendorf, Managing Director and CEO, UFI, The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry. “It is good to see that many elements from the UFI Global Framework and emerging standards like the All Secure Standard are making their ways into government regulations for the upcoming shows.”

One of those countries reopening in the coming months is Italy, and the Italian Exhibition Group (IEG) a leader in the organization of trade fairs, will hold its first show at the end of August. According to Corrado Peraboni, CEO, IEG, will employ not only the UFI framework but the advice of other organizations to ensure the safety and well-being of attendees, exhibitors and staff.

“At the beginning of the pandemic we launched the project ‘Safe Business by IEG’ putting together best practices recommended by UFI, EMECA and AEFI (our national association),” Peraboni said. “We decided to implement specific protocols for the whole customer experience, starting from the hotel, air purification and wider opening hours for the shows, etc. We’ve also done a mass screening with serological tests on a voluntary basis among our employees.”

Germany will reopen in the fall and German trade fair organizer Koelnmesse GmbH is set for its first B2B show in September. “Given the current restrictions on travel to Germany from countries overseas, the first events will have a strong European focus, particularly where exhibitors are concerned. If this is something all participants are aware of, resuming trade fair activities through business with Europe can provide an important kick-off. It is also to be expected, of course, that the numbers of participants will initially lag behind previous events,” said Gerald Böse, President and CEO, Koelnmesse. “Nearly every trade fair will seize the opportunity to significantly boost its digital reach, beyond the physical event itself. This means new digital formats such as meetings and congresses, but also innovation forums and business matchmaking. For organizers, this also presents an opportunity to establish fresh business models.”

“The most important thing is to gain trust in the expertise of venues and organizers to protect the health and safety of the clients from both the authorities and from the clients,” said Weizsäecker. “Making the distinction between large mass gatherings, festivals, etcetra and B2B is key. Offering good concepts and measures to guide attendees and staff and proactively suggest solutions helps to get decisions.”

Reach Barbara Weizsäecker at (32) 2 535 72 50 or barbara.weizsaecker@exhibition-alliance.eu; Kai Hattendorf at (33) 1 46 39 75 00 or kh@ufi.org; Corrado Peraboni, at (39) 0541 744229 or corrado.peraboni@iegexpo.it; Guido Gudat at (49) 221 821-2494 or g.gudat@KoelnMesse.de.