We asked a few key regional members for their perspectives and updates on what is going on in their country or their area of the world.
Portugal Update by Antonio Brito, CEO of New Events, IAEE Board Director
Since the beginning of March, all exhibitions and events have been canceled or postponed in Portugal. On March 16, the country entered into an emergency state and all citizens were forbidden to leave home and all events were suspended. As of April 20, there can no meetings with more than 5 people. The majority of exhibition and events companies are at home office or have paid off workers and are waiting to come back to work.
Are any trade shows being held? Any news/info related to the recovery of the exhibitions industry?
We expect in the next 2 weeks (after May 2) some relief in some economic sectors, but we do not expect any event activity before July or August, and with some limitations. We are concerned about our industry collapsing if we cannot hold events at least in the 2nd half of the year. Most exhibitions normally held in the 1st half of 2020 will likely not be postponed for a later date this year as it all depends on the market cycle. These events will likely start again in 2021.
We are taking our time to think through what we need to do for future success, how to cope with the virus should it return, and the impact of perceptions on future exhibitions and meeting face-to-face.
Are government stimulus packages working?
The Portuguese government has injected stimulus funding into the economy, especially within the tourism sector and MICE industry which includes event organizers, representing 17% of our country’s GPD. Unfortunately, it is not enough because we do not know how long this situation will last. Like others around the world, we have bank credit lines and layoff processes to support our employers, but the looming question is that we do not know how long it will take to restart working and how we will be back to being profitable.
All venues are closed, and the PCO, event organizers and all supporting companies in the ecosystem are home. The big question is when will we have authorization to meet again and how many companies will survive this.
Are organizers moving to digital/virtual/hybrid?
Yes, there are some moving in this direction. We are looking for other opportunities, so one of the constructive things this crisis has revealed to all is the opportunity to talk within the market and digital company stakeholders to understand their needs and problems and work together to find future solutions to bring people together.
One of the examples I would like to share is what my company is doing now. We have created social media groups with our exhibitors and visitors to share some positive ideas we have developed. We are hosting video conferences with our exhibitors to discuss their situation and how we can help each other through this. We are actively engaging all trade fair sectors to think about what we need to do to survive this.
We are forming groups to answer important questions like:
- What will we need to do to offer confidence and trust to our clients?
- How should venues prepare once they reopen to ensure safety of attendees in their buildings? Questions around safety and security protocols including masks, guaranteed distance between guests, more registration desks, large entrances and exits, limits on people at entrances?
It will be important to discuss and get general rules and procedures established. This is a very interesting time because we need to win the war against this virus, but at the same time we need to know how to manage it before a vaccine is created.
One of the things we need to do globally is to clearly communicate with our governments and media the economic importance of trade fairs and events industry. We need economic measures to help the industry and real discussions on how to guarantee our clients that they are returning to safe zones when having events. Our clients must feel comfortable to come back.
Mexico Update by Gerardo Barajas, Portfolio Director | Renewable Energies & Healthcare| México, Informa Markets
As of 17 April, the majority of the exhibitions in Mexico have been postponed to the second half of the year. Additionally, there are still almost 300 events (Exhibitions, Congresses and Conventions) that have canceled. There are no shows being held at this time. We have implemented a domestic campaign called “Don’t cancel your show, move the date” that has been well received.
Unfortunately, in Mexico, we do not have any government stimulus packages being implemented.
In regards to organizers moving to virtual or hybrid events, I think most of the organizers are moving to hybrid events. At this moment we have a significant increase in digital platforms and webinars. We are planning to come back with live events around August or September.