PARIS — More than 500 industry professionals from 40 countries registered for UFI Connects virtual program entitled, “What is next for the exhibition industry in Europe” on April 27.
The session featured a panel of speakers consisting of Gerald Bose, CEO, Koelnmesse; Giovanni Mantovani, CEO, Veronafiere; Barbara Weizsacker, Secretary General, European Exhibition Industry Alliance or EEIA and Carina Montagut, Strategic Events Director at Feria Valencia. It was moderated by Nick Dugdale-Moore, Regional Manager Europe at UFI.
Recently published UFI research estimated 86.1 billion euros of total economic output will not be generated related to the exhibitions industry by the end of Q2. “That number will rise dramatically and will continue to do so until we can get our doors open again,” said Dugdale-Moore.
Addressing this, the program focused on an array of issues impacting reopening the region’s industry. As part of the discussion UFI posed an informal survey to the participants which showed that more than half of the respondents may not host their first event until the fourth quarter of 2020. More than two-thirds believe that it will require two to three years to reach 2019 levels. In addition, more than half had not received financial support from their governments.
Weizsacker began the speaker segment of the program giving a quick recap of the EU response to the COVID-19 pandemic and that it they are now moving to the “third phase where everyone is focusing on exit strategies and their recovery.” This includes many proposed measures and strategies aimed to help companies survive and to restart the engine. Weizsacker also pointed out that a unified message is important as companies and associations reach out to their local governments.
“One very important element is the definition of what our exhibitions and business events are, which are not mass events and not beer festivals or football games or rock concerts. We’ve tried to lobby for that on all levels to make it very clear that we need to be treated in a different way and not under this ‘events banner’,” said Weizsacker. “We’ve seen in the last days that those branches and industries that, when they go proactively and propose something to the government, they are more likely to get something.”
All agreed that lobbying for a different way to be viewed is critical to success in Europe and that not only is educating lawmakers about how the trade show industry works is important to lifting regulations barring their openings, but the industry’s integration of digital innovations can help venues track attendees to ensure safety.
“We are trying to define that we are an organization that organizes for a business and not a festival or musical event,” said Mantovani. “A well-organized venue is very important. We have a new system of access control which forces people counting, registration, booking systems and authentications.”
Bose added, “We talk about managing visitor crowds through geo-fencing, heat technology, heat maps, all of these things and where digital signage can have a massive influence. You need to address this with your venue and how they can support you with the different measures because the venues play a very crucial and vital role in the next months.”
An emphasis on digital integration of meetings along with the expected gradual, phased approach to reopening exhibitions was discussed. UFI is looking to publish a framework to aid industry professionals in the coming weeks.
To view this UFI Connects program directly, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XGLBno3Eic&t=391s. All past sessions are available for viewing on the UFI site at https://www.ufi.org/news-media/uficonnects/.
Reach Nick Dugdale-Moore at (+44) 7876 56 55 52 or firstname.lastname@example.org.