Trade Shows Forge Ahead as Volcano Snarls World Air Travel

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR
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Oceanside, CA – Empty booths and smaller crowds were found at exhibition halls across Europe while the erupting volcano in Iceland continued to disrupt air travel across the continent.

Show managers in the U.S. told Trade Show Executive they had not seen any immediate impact on the numbers of international exhibitors and attendees at exhibitions opening this week, although some agreed a clearer picture would take a few days to develop.

Among the events on the U.S. calendar were: Fire Department Instructors Conference in Indianapolis; Electronics New England, BIOMEDevice and Design & Manufacturing New England in Boston; Ad:tech San Francisco 2010INTERPHEX 2010 in New York; and AIIM Expo + Conference 2010 in Philadelphia. Coverings, produced by National Trade Productions, was also scheduled to open on time in Orlando next week, as well as the Risk & Insurance Management Society’s Annual Conference & Exhibition in Boston.

German Giant Opens
Germany’s massive bauma 2010 trade show for the construction equipment industry was among the exhibitions that opened as scheduled in Europe. The April 19-25 triennial event, organized by Messe München International, was projected to stretch nearly six million net square feet, although the grounding of planes since last week raised the probability of a smaller crowd and some unoccupied booths.

Messe München said in an advisory that it was recruiting stand-ins to man the orphaned booths and basically collect business cards. “These temporary employees will accept and collect any enquiries for exhibitors and pass them on to the respective company employees as soon as possible,” the advisory said.

The situation was similar at other European shows due to open Monday or later in the week. Show organizers issued statements that urged attendees to remain in close touch with their air carriers and vowed to do their best to accommodate anticipated increases in the number of people arriving by car or train. The management of The London Book Fair said it would find replacements for any speakers who might not make it.

Ministers from the governments of Germany and Italy made the long trip by car to attend the April 18 opening of HANNOVER MESSE 2010. Two busloads of exhibitors from Turkey also make the trip by road. Deutsche Messe AG CEO Wolfram von Fritsch said the company brought in additional workers to assist late-arriving exhibitors with booth set-up. A telephone hotline was established to help stranded attendees get to Hannover from various airports. “We will respond with a comprehensive package of measures and make every effort to limit the impact on exhibitors and visitors,” said von Fritsch.

Shows Go On
The only event known to be scrubbed was World Retail Congress 2010, a conference scheduled for the hotel InterContinental Berlin April 21-23. The event was postponed until sometime in October. “With much of European airspace closed, so many speakers and delegates faced huge difficulties reaching Berlin in time for the scheduled event,” said Congress Director Ian McGarrigle of Emap Ltd.

International Fallout
The travel shutdown, considered the most sweeping since September 11, 2001, eased slightly on April 19. Additional flights were expected to take off in Europe, although most of the traffic would be in southern Europe. The European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation projected between 8,000 and 9,000 flights Monday, which would still be 70% below the 28,126 flights that took to the air the previous week.

Siim Kallas, vice president for transport at the European Commission, told reporters April 19 that it would likely take three to four days to clear out the logjam of stranded passengers once airline operations returned to normal.

The crisis in Europe caused ripples around the world. Media reports said smaller conferences and corporate events as far away as South Africa had been impacted by smaller crowds and the inability of major speakers to get out of Europe.

The organizers of RFID World Asia 2010 at Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre said the “majority” of the show’s exhibitors would be at their booths when the April 21-23 event opened.

Reach Georg Moller, exhibition group director, Messe München, at +49 89 949 2 0260 or moller@messe-muenchen.de; Wolfram von Fritsch at +49 51 189-0 or wolfram.fritsch@messe.de; Ian McGarrigle at +44 (0)207 728 4762 orian.mcgarrigle@emap.com