As global economies look for opportunities to rebuild business in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, exhibition organisers and associations from around the world are joining together to form a coalition dedicated to bringing critical live event platforms back to market, with safety at the foundation of the collaborators’ approach. As industries ranging from manufacturing to healthcare, aviation, agriculture, maritime and many others, look for opportunities to recover following devastating economic hardship, the exhibitions industry is dedicated to supporting commerce and connection by providing safe environments to network and do business.
This coalition, which is led by the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, UFI, organiser of Global Exhibitions Day (GED on 2 June 2021), and important industry associations such as SISO, as well as the world’s leading exhibitions organisers Clarion Events, Comexposium, Diversified Communications, Emerald, Informa Markets, Reed Exhibitions (RX) and Tarsus, are joining forces as their customers are signalling a desire to return to live event experiences.
“Exhibitions and business events are the fastest of all fast tracks to drive economic recovery after the pandemic,” says Kai Hattendorf, Managing Director & CEO – UFI. “Especially small and medium-sized enterprises rely on these marketplaces to drive their sales. As an industry, we have systems and processes in place to provide safe platforms for face-to-face trading.”
While this expansive global group is collaborating for the first time, many of the leading exhibitions organisers, typically competitors, have been finding meaningful ways to collaborate and combine resources for the benefit of the global communities they serve. Most notably, many of the industry’s organisers and associations joined forces last year to create and support the All Secure Guidelines, a rigorous set of globally-adopted and medically-vetted health and safety measures designed to create a consistent and diligent approach to visitor health at all global trade shows in 2021 and beyond. Aligned to this, UFI developed and released a Global Framework for the successful reopening of trade shows, addressing advocacy bodies and institutions and backed by members of the coalition and the wider industry.
Between the leading global organisers, they have hosted resoundingly successful trade shows for the real estate, yachting, fashion and beauty, travel, hospitality and jewellery sectors, among others, which include: US-based Palm Beach International Boat Show and Surf Expo in Florida, and JIS in Miami Beach, as well as Cityscape Dubai and Egypt editions, PROJECT Tokyo and Fashion Week Tokyo, both in Japan, SATTE in India, and Hotelex, China Beauty Expo, Music China, Hometex and many more in mainland China, all under the All Secure guidelines with many exceeding expectations in terms of attendance.
“Our platforms help build and grow global industries,” says Charlie McCurdy, CEO – Informa Markets. “They serve an important role in relationship building, discovering innovation and revenue-driving for the communities they serve. This year, our support in re-invigorating hard-hit communities is more important than ever. Our communities are ready to return to the show floor, and it’s our responsibility to ensure they feel confident that our platforms value their success and safety in equal measure.”
Hugh Jones, CEO – Reed Exhibitions, says: “COVID-19 has thrown into sharp relief how much we value face-to-face interaction, and how important live events are in championing innovation and driving growth for our customers and communities. We are planning meticulously for our return to in-person learning, networking and business after an unprecedented year, keeping health and safety top of mind for reassuring and productive event experiences. At the same time, we continue to extend a growing range of digital tools and remote participation opportunities for those customers who are unable to attend our events in person so that our customers can build their businesses from wherever they are.”
As cities around the globe begin to re-open, industries can feel secure that trade platforms are taking a consistent approach to safety, with local guidelines and community feedback helping guide that approach. At the events hosted this year, attendees have seen open-concept booths, widened aisles, hand sanitizing units, safety ambassadors, as well as mandatory mask-wearing and temperature screening. Three co-located fashion events, MAGIC Pop-Up, WWIN and OFFPRICE, saw collaboration in Orlando, FL, between Informa Markets, Clarion and Tarsus to execute their events using the All Secure Guidelines, where onsite rapid testing of all participants proved the effectiveness of the safety plans with no infection spread.
Douglas Emslie, CEO – Tarsus and Chair of SISO, said: “We hear first-hand from our customers how eager they are to get back to some sense of normalcy and how essential face-to-face events are to source products, negotiate and meet suppliers. All three organisers, and our customers, were extremely pleased with the turnout and buying activity at our recent co-located fashion events. In providing a controlled and compliant environment, we believe that we have provided reassurance and confidence that live shows are a very effective and safe way to do business once again.”
“Events will help play a fundamental role in driving economic recovery across the globe,” says Russell Wilcox, CEO – Clarion Events. “Pre-pandemic, the exhibition sector drove over £432 billion of business sales globally by providing a platform for trade and investment. Our industry is committed, willing and able to deliver safe and successful exhibitions, driving game-changing opportunities for our customers, innovation, economic growth, and jobs.”
“We are eager to start organising live events again after a year of experiential learning. These events will still prioritise safety and will be reinforced by the virtual opportunities we learned to create,” said Renaud Hamaide, Chairman of Comexposium. “I firmly believe that live events are critical to driving economic recovery. These interactions will truly revamp individual businesses and entire industries.”
This coalition is the culmination of industry-wide collaboration around the world, for example through the recently formed Exhibitions and Conferences Alliance (ECA). Comprising eight industry associations, the advocacy coalition is dedicated to the recovery and advancement of face-to-face business events by representing the common interests of the US exhibitions and conferences industry to legislators, promoting the impact of the sector, and working with partners globally to maintain a favourable operating environment within the US.
Under the ECA umbrella, Go LIVE Together is a campaign started by Freeman to advocate for reopening business events safely through one unified voice, which brought together over 2,700 members representing associations and companies from across the business events ecosystem. A second campaign – Exhibitions Mean Business – engages policymakers, business professionals and educators to raise awareness of the value face-to-face events bring to local, national and global economies.
Hervé Sedky, President and CEO – Emerald, says: “The exhibitions industry has a tremendous impact on local, state and federal economies, creating a significant multiplier effect. Small and mid-size businesses, in particular, are heavily reliant on trade shows to drive their business by launching new products, generating leads, and entering new geographies. As the exhibitions industry is a foundational element of how business gets done, our commitment is to progressively and strategically secure our future viability while ensuring our industry partners’ and customers’ continued growth and resilience. As an exhibition industry, we are united now more than ever by a common purpose: of stimulating economic growth, supporting post-COVID-19 recovery efforts, and safely reopening in-person events through our collective and diligent approach of implementing the All Secure Guidelines, and actively working with medical health experts.”
Most importantly, the coalition claims that feedback from a wide variety of industries spanning across several regions consistently proves one point – communities are eager for a return to in-person experiences. For all the organisers and associations, customer sentiment drives the majority of their decision making.
Ted Wirth, President & CEO – Diversified Communications, says: “Conversations with our customers, suppliers and buyers alike have revealed the importance and unique value of meeting in-person to maintain current relationships and find new products and suppliers at events. The need for business continuity is a common theme among our audiences and, while we successfully provided alternative solutions for buyers and sellers to connect, there is no more effective way to build trust and new relationships than by meeting face to face.”
The sixth annual Global Exhibitions Day, celebrated annually, will take place this year on 2 June 2021 and recognises the important role that trade exhibitions play in driving economies throughout the world. In the lead up to this year’s day of celebration for the industry, this coalition wants to prove one thing – in-person opportunities for connection and business can happen safely and successfully, with collaboration, consistency and customer experience at the heart of the approach.