IELA, the International Exhibition Logistics Association, hosted an online discussion titled ‘IELA RELOAD Talk 2.3 Bold Leaders’ on 21 October. The panellists represented exhibition industry organisations from Europe and Asia, who shared their views on the outlook for the sector’s future.

Most of the companies represented by the speakers have resumed exhibitions. These have largely been regional shows, with a significant number taking place in China while other countries that have allowed exhibitions to resume include Japan, Hong King, Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Russia, Germany, the US and Mexico.

Many of the speakers were optimistic about the sector’s recovery, which they predict in the second half of 2021. Kai Hattendorf, UFI CEO, shared some of the findings from his organisation’s research with Explori and SISO which show that exhibitors and exhibition visitors are eager to return to the floor, and that budgets will be freed up for this – with half of all exhibitors indicating their budget will return to pre-COVID levels within 12 months.

Safety is the biggest concern the 9 000 survey respondents had, followed by concerns around travel restrictions and possible cancellations.

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These concerns are not unjustified. The second wave that Europe is experiencing and the new restrictions it heralds makes it extremely challenging for organisers. German-based Klaus Dittrich, Messe München CEO, noted that they have had to cancel two shows on the day, while also recently cancelling two shows that were scheduled for the start of 2021.

Dittrich also argued that successful resumption of China’s exhibition sector is not a model most countries can easily replicate, as it’s a huge domestic market that is able to support the volume and the size of the trade shows taking place there. He predicts the exhibition industry will not return to pre-COVID levels within the next five years, especially as many of the industries that exhibitions service face economic hardships.

He predicts the exhibition industry will not return to pre-COVID levels within the next five years.

On the topic of cancelling shows, Douglas Emslie, Tarsus Group Managing Director, added that it is harder for the team to cancel events than organise them. Being based in the UK, which has introduced a six month ban on events, this is a reality that many organisers are now facing.

Sandy Angus, Angus Montgomery Chairman, is also based in the UK. He added that the rescheduling of shows subsequent to the six-month ban has sometimes meant a third rescheduling date is needed when competitive shows overlap.

ATTEND: IELA RELOAD Talk 2.4 – Looking Ahead for insights on the South African exhibition industry

Positive news stories also emerged during the presentations. Ian Hume, Messe Düsseldorf GmbH Director Logistics and Site Service, spoke about the success of Caravan Salon. The show had 50% of its normal exhibitor numbers in 70% of total space booked, which 40% of its usual visitor turnout. This worked out to a total of 107 000 visitors (with a daily restriction of 20 000 visitors per day).

Germany was the first country to advocate that exhibitions are organised gatherings and to categorise visiting exhibitions as essential travel.

IELA Committee Chairman & CMD R E Rogers India, Ravinder Sethi, also pointed out that Germany was the first country to advocate that exhibitions are organised gatherings and to categorise visiting exhibitions as essential travel. Making these kinds of distinctions can go a long way to helping the sector recover more quickly.

Trade shows have not yet resumed in India, said Rakesh Kumar, Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts Director General & India Exposition Mart Limited Chairman & Indian Exhibition Industry Association Advocacy Committee & Chairman. However, he said government had indicated they would likely be able to resume from mid-November, and that the India Exposition Mart is back to being fully booked from 09 December 2020 to 31 March 2021. He also said many of the industries were recovering well: the automotive sector is back to 80% of last year’s level, while the industries for machine tools, agricultural equipment, and infrastructure and construction were restarting.

Watch the IELA RELOAD Talk 2.3 session recording here:

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