The whole trade show and exhibition industry has been heavily affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, all over the world. All major events have been cancelled, many with no replacement date in the foreseeable future. Now the main association representing the interests of trade show organisers in Italy has announced that the recently issued safety guidelines will make it possible for this industry to reopen, albeit at a slower pace than ever before. When will Italian trade shows start again and what will they look like?
Can we hold trade shows safely?
Several industry representatives have contributed to the drawing of the guidelines that have been recently submitted for approval by the competent authorities. The short-term goal is to find a standard protocol that will allow Italian trade shows to start again as soon as possible and to contain the damages already suffered by both the organisers and the potential exhibitors. The protocol, should it be approved, would implement safety measures impacting both the sanitary management of trade shows and behaviour rules for exhibitors and attendees. The guidelines reflect those indicated by international health authorities for gathering in the post-Covid (but pre-vaccine) age, from social distancing to the correct use of PPE, from temperature checks at the entrance of all venues, to the correct cleaning and sanitization of all shared spaces, to the keeping of attendees databases for contact tracing, to the definition of fixed routes, entry and exit points.
When will Italian trade shows start again?
At the time of writing, there is no official date for major events to restart. The vast majority of Italian trade shows have been postponed by a year, while some are trying to provide their exhibitors and attendees with virtual alternatives. Many, however, argue that certain products, such as food & beverage, can’t be showcased adequately in a virtual environment. Similar protocols to the one proposed for Italian trade shows have already been approved and implemented for other activities and industries, which allows trade show organisers a modicum of optimism. What we do know is that, when Italian trade shows start again, the number of authorised participants will inevitably be limited.
Italian trade shows are an economic powerhouse
Italian trade shows generate value for businesses, provide employment to thousands of people, and allow national and local businesses to realise their full economic potential. They are a powerhouse of socio-economic growth and they aid the internationalisation of the Italian production system. Of course, this only makes sense within an open international market, in which buyers and investors can travel and explore fairs all over Europe at first and, later, the world. It’s hard to foresee a normal trade show season reopening in the absence of normal international air traffic.