Exhibition World Issue 2 — 2020 - Page 7

UFI Connects audience with the Pope!” “I had hoped never to be in a position like SARS again,” Duck said, noting that coronavirus had taken everybody by surprise and anxieties had affected all.” Although professing himself an optimist, Duck did warn that some postponements were spilling over into 2021 because there was no more space available in late 2020. In terms of Informa, he said, the first show now on the books in Hong Kong was a jewellery show in June. “The industry really wants the show,” he underlined. Duck noted the lack of cash in the system with no ‘lifeblood’ circulating, although the government was trying to put something back in. He also welcomed the sparks of optimism at Shenyang and noted the situation in Japan was slowly going back to something like ‘normal’. Duck reported that his Hong Kong office was now open with a full complement of people, and Informa offices are open in Shanghai. He reported a new Hong Kong government initiative for giving approximately USD$1,300 to SMEs towards exhibiting at a tradeshow in future and noted subsidies were also available for venue costs for up to a year for some organisations. He described that as welcome help, with the last fair taking place in December in Hong Kong. Duck also drew attention to the livelihoods of the stand contractors and other increasing pressures on employers in the sector. Mark Cochrane asked if the situation was easier for countries oriented predominantly on shows for the domestic markets, like Japan. Duck said that with the Tokyo Olympics postponed, there could be opportunities for Big Sight to move back into exhibitions, as it had been commissioned as a media centre for the Games. He thought a network of ‘safe’ markets in Asia could soon also be forming. “We will all need to look at different w w w.exhibitionworld.co.uk ways of putting on new shows. Maybe some of the security systems might not be needed,” he added. “After all the problem now is not terrorism, it’s the virus. We don’t want lots of people queuing in future.” Cochrane asked how the organiser landscape might change. “Some will undoubtedly struggle to carry on and we will see some amalgamations,” said Duck, who said the more nimble sub-contractors without so many fixed costs were most likely to win through. “The fittest will survive,” he said. SACEOS and AIPC President and CEO of SingExpo, Aloysius Arlando noted that, in Singapore, what had begun as a public health emergency had become an economic emergency over the following months. “The trillion-dollar question is when it will end,” he said. Singapore was now dealing with a rise in imported cases of Covid-19 and anxiously awaiting the return of 200,000 of its students from abroad. New restrictions had been brought in and there was great emphasis, he said, on contact tracing and thermal screening and being generally pro- active in tracking the disease. He contrasted, however, the situation over SARS, where three months into the outbreak there had been light at the end of the tunnel. With Covid-19, Arlando said, “it was anyone’s guess how long it will last and when a vaccine will come out”. “We cannot be complacent,” he said, “as we just don’t know how the virus will morph.” Arlando added that Plan Bs were needed for all, noting that while the first postponements in January/ February had been for the June-August period, “we are now seeing plans for shows put in the first quarter of 2021.” “The ‘new normal’, even if we get out of the woods, must be precautionary measures being taken until we get a vaccine,” the SingEx CEO added and predicted a broad U-shape curve of recovery, but underlined that, “our shows depend on where the “The [Shenyang] centre has been told by authorities the ban on exhibitions is lifted.” buyers are coming from”. Expanding on a newly announced Singapore government package of support for the broader economy in general, including tourism and aviation, Arlando said that there was 25% government underwriting of wages and some lifelines to aviation. He said the exhibition industry should be ready for any restart and ruefully suggested summer holidays would probably have to be thrown out the window! He acknowledged the industry could face challenges around profile protection and the whole circuit of events would probably need a global reset. “There will definitely be a bunching of events,” he said. V. Anbu, CEO of BIEC in Bangalore, India, and incoming UFI President, added that India had been lucky that many large shows had already managed to take place before the coronavirus hit during the quieter time of year for shows. Most were scheduled for quarters three and four, said Anbu. One question from the UFI audience that cropped up many times was whether the virus outbreak was driving virtual events technology. “No doubt some are looking to make it work,” said Michael Duck, who thought it would be far more common alongside future shows. He admitted such technology could also be “a viable alternative” for shows unable to take place at all. Michael Kruppe wrapped up the discussion with some thoughts that the industry would have a “big puzzle” to solve about managing the likely big calendar squeeze and he recommended all interested in future UFI webinars to check the association’s website. Issue 2 2020 7