The events sector is one of the sectors that has been hit hardest by the corona crisis. "Where many sectors see their turnover decrease it is not easy for the events sector and therefore also trade fairs. As you don't make any turnover if you don't organize a trade fair, you go back to zero." This is what Kuno Jacobs of Nova Exhibitions tells us.
He has been organizing trade shows for almost 19 years now and therefore has seen a lot. However, nothing can be compared to the current situation. In this article, he tells us more about his experience as a trade show organizer in the current corona crisis and his expectations for the future of trade shows.
Can you first briefly tell us something about Nova Exhibitions? What characterizes Nova Exhibitions?
Nova Exhibitions currently organizes 3 annual trade shows in the horticultural and floral sector; HortEx Vietnam, Flower Expo Ukraine and Fresh Business Expo. HortEx Vietnam is held annually in Ho Chi Minh City and the latter two in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Nova Exhibitions is characterized by the personal contact with the participants. We are a small company and we know almost all participants personally, some participants have been with us for more than 14 years at the show. We try to open up new markets for participants and precisely because we have such a personal approach and know most participants personally, we can offer them the right support and service. Short lines, being able to switch quickly and arranging everything from A-Z that is our strength!
Can you tell us when the COVID-19 frenzy started?
For us, the COVID-19 hectic actually started in December 2019 when we started to worry about the spread of the virus in China and surrounding countries, especially since we would be organizing HortEx Vietnam in February 2020. We were just able to organize HortEx Vietnam, just at the time we were in Vietnam in the last week of February when things escalated in Italy and the virus got a foothold in Europe.
What was the first trade show you had to reschedule?
The first trade show we had to move was Flower Expo Ukraine 2020. It was initially scheduled for April 8-10, 2020 but it soon became clear that this was not an option.
Can you tell us a bit more about how that works?
Postponing an exhibition is not an easy decision; the costs for an exhibition usually start to run up long beforehand and you are, as an exhibition organizer, also dependent on the goodwill of, for example, an exhibition centre. So the first step is always to negotiate with the exhibition centre, and once you have found a solution together you can start thinking about a new date. This is very difficult at this time because nobody knows exactly when everything will be back to normal so you make a decision based on the information you have at that time. Furthermore, many fairs are rescheduled, so you also have to be careful not to coincide with another conflicting fair at the same time. In addition, it is important to contact the participants at an early stage; we try to do this personally as much as possible.
How do the exhibitors react in general?
We all are now almost a year in the same situation and I can say that our exhibitors are generally always understanding because they know that we as an organization can not do anything about it. In addition, the personal relationship that we have with many exhibitors is an advantage, so we can explain it well.
When do you think / hope it will all start again? And how?
I am positive and think that somewhere in the 2nd quarter we will see the first effects of vaccination, there is now a lot of good news about the vaccines and soon we expect that a 3rd and 4th vaccine will be approved. All the restrictive measures will not disappear at once but I do think they will be phased out. So some measures will probably remain in place for a little longer but by the summer we will have come a long way I think.
Do you think there is more or less enthusiasm for in-person exhibitions since the corona crisis? Why?
In the past year, almost every trade show organizer has held an online event, which is a good thing, but it can never compete with a physical event. Doing business and making new contacts is something people like to do face to face. That is why I see the future of trade fairs as very positive, especially in the markets where we are active. In my view, online is an addition but never a replacement. So I think that the enthusiasm will definitely return to the level it was before the crisis and maybe even more. I know from a lot of participants that they are eager to participate in a physical fair again and to be able to travel again!
Vaccination is now taking place almost everywhere. What do you think it will look like when everyone is vaccinated?
Like many, I hope that at that time we can go back to the "old" normal and we can all get back to our lives. Perhaps some things will remain in the "new" normal like working more from home etc., so maybe we can combine the "old" normal with the "new" normal and come out of the crisis stronger!