08 March 2020 Events

Shows cancelled as impact of coronavirus bites worldwide

Fespa is the highest profile event to be postponed, but it heads a long line of shows and conferences that have responded to fears about the Covid-19 virus outbreak.

The cancellation of Fespa as exhibitors pulled out over fears caused by the spread of Covid-19 is just one of the high profile industry events being cancelled around the world.

Fespa was due to take place at the end of this month in Madrid and had already warned that exhibitors coming from China would need to arrive more than two weeks before the show opened. However, with outbreaks occurring in other locations, notably Northern Italy and South Korea, many corporations have imposed restrictions on staff travel and withdrawing from the show, despite the financial cost, became inevitable.

Neil Felton, Fespa CEO, says: “Until this week our actions with regard to Covid-19, including the preemptive action taken in February regarding exhibiting companies from China, have been informed by guidance from the relevant international and national authorities, with the primary objective of safeguarding the health and wellbeing of exhibitors and visitors. However, in light of the recent spread of the virus in specific areas of mainland Europe we have consulted with our stakeholders and have concluded that it is in the best interests of our community to defer the events to a later date.”

But it is not the only casualty. Tarsus has postponed Labelexpo from 7-9 May until 10-12 September in Bangkok, explaining that the health and safety of exhibitors and visitors is paramount. “This is an unprecedented situation. Not a decision that we have taken lightly,” says Lisa Milburn, managing director of Labelexpo Global Series.

In the UK, Faversham House, organiser of Sign & Digital, has decided to postpone the UK show even though there are currently no government restrictions on travel or gatherings. It was due to take place 28-30 April at the NEC. Amanda Barnes, CEO of Faversham House, says: "If the outbreak continues to escalate as the Government is predicting, we believe visitor footfall and exhibitor attendance will be significantly affected and so it is unlikely we will be able to deliver the great event the industry looks forward to."

The thinking will have been influenced by hesitation among the exhibitors, for while the attendance is overwhelmingly from the UK, the exhibitors will normally bring representatives of major suppliers. And many of these are clamping down on overseas travel. "We have been closely monitoring the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and the related Government guidelines. After careful consideration, having spoken with many people involved in our event, we have decided to suspend SDUK 2020. The health, safety and wellbeing of our SDUK community is our priority," she adds. Faversham House will return to the NEC for the reorganised event next year between 2-4 March.

And with its opening less than 100 days away, Drupa executives are doing all they can to ensure the industry’s premier event can go ahead. “There are no intentions to postpone the trade fair,” says a statement. “We will re evaluate the situation in good time in consultation with health authorities and partners in order to make the appropriate decisions.”

It is stepping up precautionary measures around the Messe complex. There will be hand sanitising dispensers at all entrances, in toilets and washrooms and in the on site health centre. Intervals between cleaning of toilets will be reduced and contact surfaces such as door handles, travelator hand rails, switches, lifts and staircases are being cleaned several times a day.

But the coronavirus is having an impact on the show with the cancellation of preview events that were due to take place in Israel and Europe this week. Media and key customers were due to visit Indigo for a preview of the technology coming at Drupa. But with the Israeli government ordering quarantine for travellers from Germany, Spain, France, Switzerland and Austria, action was needed. “It was such a hard decision but given the current environment, the only thing that was right,” says a spokesman. Likewise a preview at Heidelberg has been cancelled.

The Dscoop Edge user event in Florida has also been postponed from 29 March - 1 April until an undetermined date, though not all US events are being cancelled. The Digital Signage Show, taking place in Las Vegas 31 March - 3 April, is going ahead with the additional cleaning regime that Drupa has announced in place.

Closer to home, the IPIA/BAPC spring conference on 19 March has been postponed. IPIA general manager Brendan Perring says: “This decision was made after several sponsors, partners and speakers shared with the IPIA and BAPC their Head Office directives — that due to the spread of the Covid-19 they are not permitted to attend gatherings or meetings and to restrict all business travel until further notice. 

“Both organisations understand and respect this decision to prioritise the health and safety of all, and we need to be sensible about how this impacts our ability to deliver the quality of event that our members and the industry have come to expect from us.”

What is currently unquantifiable is the knock on effect for printers. It seems logical that print for exhibitors and other large scale public events could be hit, while equipment coming from China is likely to be delayed. Kodak has five platesetters in dock in Shanghai awaiting transport from China; others will have similar issues even if factories in most parts of the country are back in production.

It is printers in Italy that must now face the biggest challenge as the large Lombardy area – covering Milan and other provinces in northern Italy where many of the country’s largest printers, suppliers and paper mills are located – is now under quarantine with restrictions on travel and transportation from the area,

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Fespa hit

Fespa hit

Fespa is just the largest casualty to date as restrictions on travel and concerns over the spread of Covid-19 result in the postponement and cancellation of events that might attract an international audience.

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