With the exhibition industry looking forward to the proof of concept Restart Expo, this is also seeing greater industry collaboration.

The Restart Expo aims to demonstrate how exhibitions and events can be safely hosted while ensuring all the necessary COVID-19 health and safety protocols are in place. Thus far, the Restart Expo has received an endorsement from the Association of African Exhibition Organisers (AAXO) together with members of the SA Events Council, as well as the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry and exhibition industry suppliers – better known as UFI.

“We are delighted to confirm that the Minister of Tourism, the Honourable Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, has accepted an invitation to attend the Expo.”

Taking place at the Johannesburg Expo Centre Johannesburg over from 25-26 November, the Restart Expo will include exhibitor stands, a seminar theatre, a meeting area and a business lounge.

“We are delighted to confirm that the Minister of Tourism, the Honourable Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, has accepted an invitation to attend the Expo,” says Gary Corin, managing director of Specialised Exhibitions, a division of the Montgomery Group.

Gary Corin, managing director of Specialised Exhibitions

The objective of the Restart Expo is to create confidence that an event of this nature can safely take place, explains Gary.

“The protocols can be applied to and rolled out across exhibitions, conferences and events. We encourage all levels of government to attend as well as suppliers involved in exhibitions and events, past exhibitors and attendees, associations and media,” Gary highlights.

Thirty exhibitors will represent the industry and industry suppliers at a non-commercial level that will see contractors participating with no revenue generated.

Some of the protocols that the Restart Expo will implement encompass online registration, the mandatory use of a suitable face covering, hand sanitiser stations, social distancing in addition to screening such as temperature checks at a designated area.

“The industry feels that it has been neglected; by showcasing what is possible and enabling a better understanding of what we do and how our industry operates, will also bring an acknowledgment of what the industry’s value is to stakeholders,” says Gary.

“We have been bundled into the same category as mass gatherings; the Restart Expo is a strategic effort to unbundle this myth and show government officials that exhibitions and events are organised gatherings.”

Projeni Pather, chairperson of AAXO

Projeni Pather, chairperson of AAXO, feels that it is unfortunate that exhibitions and events have been sidelined.

“We have been bundled into the same category as mass gatherings; the Restart Expo is a strategic effort to unbundle this myth and show government officials that exhibitions and events are organised gatherings. The Event Safety [Re-Opening] Guidelines, formulated at the beginning of lockdown, have considered the health and safety protocols from the Department of Health, the World Health Organisation, and many international event organisations. Besides the new Guidelines, our industry is very regulated and safety is a prerequisite to any event plan. The Restart Expo allows stakeholders to see how the safety protocols unfold at the live exhibition,” says Projeni.

She believes all industry stakeholders must attend the Restart Expo, with an emphasis on “government officials, provincial municipalities, safety and security teams, and event organisers.”

“Unfortunately, the current limit of 250 pax indoors limits our interaction; this capacity limit is not financially viable for exhibition organisers. We firmly believe the Restart Expo can demonstrate to the government the distinction between mass gatherings and business events; the capacity limit on business events should then be lifted to at least 50% of venue capacity,” highlights Projeni.

AAXO is affiliated with the SA Events Council, which is comprised of 14 event associations that fully support the Restart Expo.

“As an industry, it is essential to collaborate, communicate, and work as a cohesive unit, to safely reopen the exhibition and event industry,” emphasises Projeni.

For further enquiries contact Leigh Miller, marketing manager for Specialised Exhibitions on +27 (0)11 835 1565 or leighm@specialised.com.