The members of the European Major Exhibition Centres Association EMECA are back in business. After exhibitions in Spain were allowed to reopen as early as May and in Italy in June, all other EMECA members have tight schedules for the autumn and the beginning of next year recovering postponed or cancelled events in addition to the usual scheduled events. National and European exhibitions are working fine, the recovery of international trade fairs is slower as exhibitors and visitors from key markets overseas still cannot attend. Concerning the expectation of full recovery to pre-pandemic levels of business, dates vary greatly with many expecting to be fully back in 2023, while many others stated 2024 or even 2026, partly due to exhibition cycles.
The association came together for the first in-person meeting since the pandemic started for its general assembly at Jaarbeurs Utrecht. "It marks the moment of strong restart of all our members' activities and with this, EMECA sends the message that nothing can substitute face-to-face-events", declared EMECA president Ricard Zapatero.
„Nothing can substitute face-to-face-events. “
The period of the pandemic with a decrease of 75% in exhibitions in 2020 meant hard cost cutting for all members, who face a variety of practical and strategic challenges and restructuring. Guest speaker Eric Philippart, senior expert from the European Commission's DG GROW, reported on the support provided on the European level to soften the effects of the pandemic for the sector and explained the policy shaping underway to set the goals for the green and digital transition in the travel and tourism ecosystem, to be followed by all other ecosystems.
Even though all EMECA members increased the digital offerings and services for the sectorial communities they serve with their respective exhibitions, the strong physical rebound shows that the pandemic strengthened the business model, the association states: "The digital services are there to stay and very helpful in the field of knowledge transfer, but it is confirmed that networking, new business and creating trust among business partners is less successful online." EMECA members see themselves ready to launch a number of new exhibitions in 2022.www.emeca.eu