VIRUS: Mega show drupa plans to go ahead

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As fears over the coronavirus sweep the world, causing cancellations of major events in affected areas, giant German trade show drupa says it is all systems go for the June event, with no plans to cancel.

drupa 2016
It's on: drupa 2020 set to go ahead

The drupa location, Messe Centre Düsseldorf, has just postponed half-a-dozen shows scheduled to run in March, including ProWein which attracts around 60,000 visitors, as well as trade shows Tube, Wire, Energy Storage, and a couple of hairdressing events.

The once-every-four years drupa is scheduled to take place June 16-26, and will attract upwards of 250,000 visitors to the booths of 2000 exhibitors at the Messe Centre.

As printers and suppliers phoned Print21 for updates, local drupa representative Robert Laing told us, “There are currently no intentions to postpone the major trade fairs interpack and drupa, which will be held in Düsseldorf in May and June.”

Drupa is the biggest trade show hosted at the Messe centre, occupying all 18 halls, and is the biggest event by far in the global print industry. It has never been cancelled, although it did switch from its four-year cycle to five years in the 1990s, so it could run in the year 2000, rather than let at-the-time rival Ipex  – now defunct – have the glory. It switched back to four years straight after.

In the current dymanic situation, Print21 is in touch with the drupa organisers and will keep the Australian and Kiwi print communities informed of all developments as they happen. Many Australian and New Zealand printers and suppliers have already booked their flights and accommodation for the event.

In the end the decision if a major event goes ahead in Germany is with the Gesundheitsamt (Local Health Authority)  and not any event organiser like drupa. Gesundheitsamt can decide if concerts, events or even the train runs.

The coronavirus (Covid-19) is spreading around the world, although its growth in China has now slowed down, and authorities there say they will have it under control by April. Its impact is mainly felt among the frail and elderly. Some 90,000 cases have so far been confirmed – the vast majority, 80,000, in China's Hubei province – with 45,000 patients having recovered, but some 3000 fatalities recorded, almost all among people aged 70+.

The ramifications of postponing the big shows are potentially huge, especially for the show's owners who will lose significant revenue, although losing money will not be their highest concern. They would look to reschedule drupa to either later in the year or more likely next year.

Not postponing is equally as fraught though, as printers may stay away anyway if the virus is still going strong in June. Chinese exhibitors – of whom there are many – will face issues, and there is always the possibility of the German government pulling the pin closer to the date.

Global wide format show Fespa is scheduled to take place in Madrid later this month, and has already said it will ban visitors from China from entering the halls if they cannot show documented evidence they have been out of the country for at least two weeks. One US exhibitor, MR Systems, has pulled out over fears of the virus.

The drupa organiser is in a constant state of review, and ultimately will be guided by the German authorities. "Of course, we are taking our customers' inquiries regarding the coronavirus seriously," said Werner Dornscheidt, CEO of Messe Düsseldorf, “so we will re-evaluate the situation in good time in consultation with health authorities and partners in order to make the appropriate decisions.”

Given the long lead times necessary to build stands and install print production equipment drupa organisers will likely need to make a decision as to its viability by Easter.

In the last few days neighbouring countries France, Switzerland and Italy have placed serious restrictions on large gatherings; in Italy several Serie A soccer games were cancelled over the weekend, France has banned gatherings of more than 5000 people, Switzerland has said no more than 1000 people in any one place at any one time.

In postponing the March shows Messe Düsseldorf followed the recommendation of the crisis management team of the German government, to take into account the principles of the Robert Koch Institute when making a risk assessment of major events. Added to this is the uncertainty of numerous exhibitors, and visitors, at the events in March and the complicated travel situation, especially for international customers.

Dornscheidt said, “Our customers, partners and employees trust us. Not only when it comes to the professional and successful handling of major international events in Düsseldorf, they can also have this trust in us when we make decisions about critical situations in the interests of their safety.”

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