Kai Hattendorf (pictured), managing director and CEO of UFI, says that with our industry reopening ever more and the parallel rise of the Delta variant of the Covid virus, the next months will remain challenging:
Vaccinations proceed in many of the major markets, and they are reaching the whole global population. Processes around travel are being rolled out – with the European Union’s standardised digital certificate a global milestone and benchmark now. I attended the AIPC Conference in Lausanne this week, and participants from all across Europe simply scanned their respective Covid certificates at the entrance – just like you scan your badge.
At the same time, countries like Singapore are reviving their policies to switch from pandemic policies to those that manage an ongoing existence of the Covid virus – like the flu virus – and work on endemic regulations.
We have seen Informa’s World of Concrete in Las Vegas in the US. We have seen GSMA’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in Spain. We have seen Informa’s Arab Health in Dubai. And we have seen – and are long used to again – a whole array of major shows running successfully across China.
These exhibitions clearly signal to businesses, policymakers, and the media that industries and their leaders are eager to return to our market places and to the show floors. We know that, and they show that. But while we read this as a sign of confidence, some media and stakeholders will continue to challenge this – by pointing to the lower numbers of participants compared to our industry’s record year in 2019. Or by talking up digital-only alternatives.
Working together, as an industry, as we did throughout the pandemic, the next phase in our global reopening will need to focus on showcasing the successes we generate. First, and obviously – we can show that our health and safety processes at the shows are working, that we are keeping people safe, that trade shows and business events are controlled environments, unlike, say, fully packed sports stadiums. Showing this is proof when we talk to local and regional authorities about the health and safety measures for upcoming events, where we will ramp up occupancy rates in line with regional and national health frameworks.
The second major element of our industry’s comeback story are the successes of our customers. The more we can showcase their successful show participations, the more this will drive others who are currently on the fence about returning to the show floors as well. As UFI, jointly with SISO, we are working on capturing case studies from shows to build the library of cases that we all can use to drive these conversations. And, of course, we continue to update the reopening tracker that shows which countries and markets around the world are open again now, or when they will open in the coming months (you can find them on our Coovid resource pages at ufi.org/coronavirus).
We stay focused on providing resources for all of you beyond these. Please make sure you download the new White Paper we did in collaboration with the Singapore Tourism Board and PCMA called ‘Reimagining Business Events Through Covid-19 and Beyond’ for the latest thinking and cases about changes to events production post pandemic. If you want to dig deeper, you can watch the UFI Connects session on that topic on demand at www.ufi.org/uficonnects. The latest UFI Barometer is out as well this month – released after the deadline for this column.
Finally, this issue of Exhibition World features much around data and data ownership – a conversation we launched between the digital platform providers at our European Conference last month, and continued with an UFI Connects session with the perspective from the organisers very recently. For the future of our industry, this is one of the most relevant strategic issues as we evolve and come out of the pandemic – and I am personally eager to hear your respective takes on this!