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Trade Show Industry Continues as Impact of Coronavirus Remains Uncertain


Editor’s note: As this story develops, the TSE staff will continue to monitor the impact of the novel coronavirus pneumonia (NCP) outbreak from various angles to provide you with information pertinent to our industry.

LAS VEGAS — U.S. trade shows are facing more challenges this week than the week prior as the coronavirus, recently renamed “novel coronavirus pneumonia” or NCP, continues to spread globally.

Travel restrictions and bans are being implemented as nations struggle to contain the spread of the virus worldwide. The U.S. instituted a travel ban which denies entry to foreign nationals who have visited China in the 14 days prior to their arrival.

Against this backdrop, MAGIC opened as scheduled from Feb. 5 to 7 at Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas. “The travel ban prevented about 50% of the Chinese vendors in our Sourcing Pavilion from entering the country,” said Tom Nastos, Chief Commercial Officer of Informa Markets’ fashion division. “The other 50% were already in the country or other countries prior to the travel ban.”

At MAGIC, only five of the show’s 3,400 exhibitors cancelled, Nastos told Trade Show Executive. “As the situation was unfolding, it was important to analyze the facts vs. the hysteria,” Nastos said. “While the coronavirus was completely unforeseen, we were prepared by our own internal Healthy & Safety teams for any crisis. We implemented additional measures and communicated the facts to our customers. I think we did well.”

“The flu is a more dangerous threat in the U.S.,” Dr. Joseph Bresee, Deputy Incident Manager, Center for Disease Care and Prevention (CDC), said during a webinar presented by the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM) on Friday. “It’s important to remember we are in the beginning stages of this virus, and we do expect to see additional cases. While the global threat is high, the risk is low for average Americans.”

Determining Economic Impact
“We could use the impact of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) as a guide to access the impact of coronavirus on the Chinese and the U.S. economies,” said CEIR Economist Allen Shaw, Ph.D., Chief Economist for Global Economic Consulting Associates, Inc. Read more about the economic impact:

According to the U.S. Travel Association (USTA), about 3 million Chinese visited the U.S. in 2019, and 28% of those were traveling for conventions or business. “During SARS, we saw a 30% decline in visitors to the U.S. from China,” said Greg Staley, Senior VP, Communications, USTA.

“In terms of economic impact, it’s too early to predict,” said David DuBois President and CEO for the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE). “We will know a lot more once those who have been quarantined for 14 days are released.” On February 7, IAEE hosted a webinar on the Coronavirus. Watch it here:

Organizers, Exhibitors Respond
Some organizers are ramping up their cleaning and sanitizing efforts. For example, the RSA Conference 2020 is working with Freeman and United Service Companies (parent company of Trade Show Executive) to implement additional safety measures for its event at the Moscone Center in San Francisco from Feb. 24-28.

“We are planning daily carpet sanitization in the expo areas and are adding hand sanitizers located in each aisle,” said Buddy Linn, VP, Western Region, United Service Companies. “We will use electro static sprayers to disinfect high-traffic areas and complete frequent wipe downs of all common touch areas, including door knobs, lecterns, microphones, escalator hand rails, trash receptacles, elevators buttons, water stations, registration tables, keynote chairs and in and around the bathroom areas.” Richard Simon, President and CEO of United Service Companies, added that the company is actively reaching out to all trade show partners to offer similar protective services that safeguard against the spread of contagious viral infections.

As safety measures are being employed, a number of companies are implementing travel restrictions for their employees, and others are withdrawing their participation in trade shows all together. On Friday, Ericsson announced that it would pull out of the Mobile World Congress, which is expected to draw 2,400 exhibiting companies and 109,000 attendees to Barcelona, Spain, from Feb. 24 to 27.

Shows Across Asia Postponed
A Level-One Response was issued by the Department of Commerce of China’s Guangdong Province on Jan. 23 urging all large-scale economic and trade events, as well as promotional activities that involve public gatherings come to a halt during the response period. This province includes the newly constructed Shenzhen World. According to their WeChat account and confirmed by senior management, the venue has postponed all events in February and March.

In Singapore, Aloysius Arlando, President, Singapore Association of Convention and Exhibition Organizers and Suppliers (SACEOS), said the government has encouraged them to postpone all large-scale events. “It demonstrates how fast this situation is evolving,” he said.

Reach Tom Nastos at (212) 600-3106 or; Aloysius Arlando at 65 6413 2160 or; David DuBois at (972) 458-8002 or; Richard Simon at (312) 922-8558 or; Buddy Linn at (909) 322-4843 or

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