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Organisers of giant print trade show drupa have bowed to the inevitable and cancelled the April expo, which had already been postponed from June, as Covid continues to ravage Europe.

See you next April: drupa 2020 postponed 
Canned: drupa 2021 cancelled

The world’s biggest print exhibition will now next run in 2024, although there will be a four-day virtual drupa in April. Host Messe Centre in Düsseldorf has also cancelled packaging show interpack, which was scheduled for February, and all its other events for the first part of the new year.

The now-cancelled drupa had already suffered a mass exodus of leading exhibitors, with the vast majority of its top 20 pulling out over the past few months. This, together with the ongoing surge in Covid cases in Germany – currently 18,000 a day – and far more in the rest of Europe, has forced the hand of the organisers. Last week the German authorities instigated stricter lockdown measures, which it said may extend into the new year.

Explaining the decision to cancel drupa Erhard Wienkamp, COO at Messe Düsseldorf said, “The pandemic has caused a great deal of uncertainty among exhibitors and visitors in terms of their attendance at drupa 2021. Travel restrictions and budget constraints have further exacerbated the situation in the printing industry. We have taken this decision in consultation with our partners, who are entirely supportive of it. It was preceded by a detailed process of considering the current conditions and the needs of the industry.”

The 2021 drupa was scheduled to run April 20-28, when it was postponed from June this year. It was actually first scheduled to take place last year, switching to a three-year cycle from its usual four, but exhibitors baulked at the idea when presented with it at the 2016 show.

Trade shows around the world stopped when Covid hit in March, although there was a big show in China last month. Australia’s own major print expo PacPrint has actually been helped by drupa first moving, and now cancelling. The rescheduled PacPrint is now slated for the end of September in Melbourne, by which time the population will likely have been vaccinated, and printers keener than ever to see new equipment.

Of the other two major shows next year that Aussie and Kiwi printers travel overseas for, wide format event Fespa – which has already been postponed twice, and currently slated to run in March in Amsterdam – is an increasingly unlikely proposition, while Labelexpo at the end of September will be hoping it gets the all-clear by March.

It is the first time in its 69-year history that drupa has been cancelled, although it came close to it in 1986 when clouds of radiation from the exploded Chernobyl nuclear plant were headed straight for it.

The show, which attracted 260,000 printers last time out, is regarded as the focal point and agenda setter of the global print industry. Aussie and Kiwi printers are always keen attenders.

Supporting print: drupa director Sabine Geldermann 

The 2024 drupa will run 28 May - 7 June, with a four day virtual event to be held 20-23 April next year. Sabine Geldermann, drupa director and project director print technologies, said: “Our primary goal remains to support the industry in any way we can to keep in contact at a national and international level, further develop their network and generate leads. To this end, we will be holding an interim event, virtual.drupa, providing our exhibitors and visitors with an additional sales channel and allowing them to make reliable plans.”

Claus Bolza-Schünemann, president of drupa and chairman at König und Bauer, welcomed this approach. He said: “A virtual event is exactly the right format in the current time. The new digital forum is a virtual platform, providing a reliable pillar and an opportunity to maintain valuable communications within the industry until 2024.” 

He said, “Attending drupa under the usual parameters was just too great a risk for many exhibitors, given declining export and turnover figures, as well as significant travel restrictions, which would also affect visitors."

Launched in October, the drupa preview platform already offers an impression of what virtual.drupa will look like. It will give companies the opportunity to showcase themselves and their innovations virtually, as well as maintain existing contacts and establish new ones via the matchmaking feature.

In addition, the conference schedule of the five drupa hot spots will provide key incentives and set the agenda for an online transfer of knowledge. For instance, international speakers from vertical markets will present success stories of Future Technologies in the Cube, outlining the future of our industry.

“Our members are telling us that trade fairs to drive their business forward are still in great demand. The value and appeal of drupa remain intact. The decision to suspend it in 2021 is entirely down to the pandemic”, Dr Markus Heering, managing director of the VDMA Printing and Paper Technology Association, said.

“In the long run, it is important for all of us to maintain drupa as an international platform in Europe, as it displays the diversity of our industry. Some 200 years of expertise are rooted in Europe and must continue. However, we welcome the introduction of the new digital platform as an interim solution until 2024.”

The drupa organiser says the printing industry “continues to fully back its leading global trade fair, whose international reach remains unbroken.”

It says replicating its impetus, selling power and atmosphere, as well as the ability to exchange ideas with like-minded industry colleagues and nurture relationships, has certain limits when conducted in an online format. The organisers are aiming to satisfy this demand with virtual.drupa as well as the annual Print & Digital Convention in Düsseldorf, until drupa returns as a live event in 2024.

“Today's decision to cancel drupa 2021 and present it in a different format has been an event- and industry-specific one”, Wienkamp said.

“Messe Düsseldorf remains in close contact with the authorities and its partners of all other events, and we will evaluate the circumstances in a timely manner to take the responsible decision.”

Transformation: drupa 2020, set for June, will show how the printing industry is transforming itself to meet the demands and opportunities of the new era. 
Back in 2024: Covid cancels drupa 2021
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