COVID-19 Impact: “We Assume Trade Fairs Can Be Held Again From September 2020 Onwards”
Sabine Geldermann, the drupa Director and Global Head for Print Technologies at Messe Düsseldorf GmbH, speaks to Print Pack MEA about the measures her company has undertaken to continue business without disruption
During this COVID-19 crisis, what measures have you undertaken to continue your own business without disruption?
The postponement of drupa due to COVID-19 represents of course a new, unprecedented scenario for all concerned and requires a certain degree of flexibility. As in the past, we will continue to take every possible measure to carry over the successful status of drupa to the new date, 20-30 April 2021, as it is. It is our ambition and desire to organise another unique and successful drupa for our global customers in 2021.
Also, our supporting programme at the five special forums has already impressed with a fascinating range of formats, renowned speakers and exciting topics. Our top priority is to offer our visitors highly relevant, inspiring and lastingly valuable content. The conference programme is rounded off by Guided Tours and was already available for bookings via our portal. Our aim is now, of course, to adapt and transfer the programme as far as possible to the April date.
So in order to keep drupa preparations running successfully, we are in close contact with all our partners and exhibitors. Significant issues concerning the ongoing digital transformation, topics related to circular economy and sustainability or new business models will continue to inspire and successfully advise companies – and this will be more relevant than ever after the impact of the coronavirus.
What measures and initiatives have been taken to provide uninterrupted service to customers?
We maintain contact with the industry via various online channels: newsletter, social media, and above all through our blog and the drupa website. We are currently working on expanding the exhibitor database together with our clients, filling it with relevant information for visitors and initial previews on drupa 2021.
With its strong visitor traffic, the drupa website is the perfect platform for the print community to come together, get comprehensive information and make contact. At the original drupa run time in June, we want to give our visitors the opportunity to keep up to date on the way to drupa 2021 with a first mark-up on our website.
Have you put in place any contingency plans if this crisis persists or gets escalated?
At present, we assume that trade fairs can be held again from September onwards, subject to certain measures being taken. AUMA, the Association of the German Trade Fair Industry, is currently working on scenarios to ensure that trade fairs as significant business platforms can once again be held quickly and sustainably.
The entire industry is looking forward to an end to the pandemic in order to revive the economy. The current situation, in which more and more easing measures are being announced worldwide and in which there are also the first prospects of a vaccine, is at least a sign of hope on the horizon.
What sort of business and financial impact do you expect for your business as a result of COVID-19?
We are currently in close contact with our customers and try to meet their needs, which are now gradually emerging, in the best possible way. Of course, there may also be a possible rescheduling of individual halls, as exhibitors will critically review their budgets and marketing resources and then decide which products and technologies to exhibit.
On the other hand, we also receive requests for expansion and we are recording additional registrations from new exhibitors. The coming weeks and months, and in particular the resumption of worldwide production facilities, will therefore provide our exhibitors with information about which product portfolio, innovations and machines will be presented in April 2021. After the summer months we will certainly get a more concrete picture.
Where do you see new opportunities emerging from – either industry sectors, jobs, markets?
COVID-19 has definitely helped to expand existing business models and offer customers not only a live experience but also digital added value in the form of hybrid formats. In addition, extensive hygiene and safety standards have been introduced and awareness has been raised of how we will have to move around at live events in the future until a vaccine is found.
In this context, Messe Düsseldorf, together with experts from the events industry, is participating in the development of recommendations for political decision-makers in order to provide the relevant health authorities with an instrument that safeguards the health of the population and does not further override the basic right to freedom of assembly. We are well able to implement requirements in the areas of participant management, spatial design, catering and hygiene and thus clearly distinguish ourselves from general large-scale events such as concerts, public festivals, etc.
It is of elementary importance to make this necessary differentiation and thus underline the unique selling proposition of trade fairs and their importance for the global economy. Trade fairs are business platforms that sustainably revive and activate the economy, which is of fundamental importance especially for medium-sized companies – the backbone of the economy.