The question is rhetorical: Who would have thought just a few weeks ago, that we would experience such a drastic cut in the global economy? At the air cargo India trade fair in Mumbai at the end of February, the general mood was still good, and nobody envisaged the effects of the approaching corona pandemic on such a large scale. Now it is the middle of May and we are all wiser. Plus, this has clearly shown us how closely the trade fair business and aviation are linked, Dr. Robert Schönberger, Exhibition Group Director of Messe München GmbH, writes in this guest contribution.
Trade fairs are crucial sales platforms
If there are no international fairs, there is no need to travel. If there are no flight connections, fairs in other countries cannot be attended. This is a truism. Yet, air travel and trade fairs are not an end in themselves. They are both either a carrier or a platform for people to come together and do business. Both are essential for the global economy and our prosperity.
We are all gaining new experiences and learning to network more digitally and meet online. Nevertheless, we still receive many enquiries from companies wanting to know about trade fair plans for the coming months because, despite all the digitalization, trade fairs are the decisive sales platform for many market participants. Innovation cycles are aligned at leading trade fairs; for the duration of the trade fair, international attention is focused on one industry to an unparalleled extent, and even industries such as IT see them as a significant sales channel due to this clustering. This is especially true for those products with a high proportion of customer-specific solutions and where a personal understanding of the issues and the cooperation between the parties involved is important, such as in logistics in general or air freight in particular.
Hopeful news at last, after a valley of tears
Many market participants – and, of course, we as organizers, too – are longing for trade fairs again. And there is good news: In Germany, it was decided just in the middle of last week, that trade fairs are not to be understood as mass events such as large concerts, but as events where hygiene measures and distance rules can be observed. We assume that trade fairs will take place again very soon, and that other countries will follow suit.
We are therefore pleased that we are still on schedule with the air cargo forum Miami (ACF), and that this first meeting of the international air cargo industry since, by then, 9 months will take place as planned.
Miami is an attractive destination - in more ways than one
That TIACA’s decision to choose Miami as the new home base for ACF was the right one, is also evident even these days. Miami is the capital of Latin America and not only an important air freight hub, but also perfectly connected to the production and storage centers in North Florida and the neighboring U.S. states. And now the people-factor comes into play again: Miami is also an attractive destination for after-show times.
And the omens are still good. Already 70 stands have been firmly booked - important airlines, airports, and GSAs are on board. Likewise, well-known players from the logistics services sector have already registered. An exciting mixture, which Miami stands for as a city and which we will also reflect in the conference program. There are numerous current questions concerning the disruption of international supply chains. Finally, it will be possible to discuss these face-to-face again. However, we of course remain realistic: If, contrary to expectations, it will not be possible for us to meet in Miami in November due to force majeure, the exhibitors will be refunded their participation fees. Therefore, registration is possible without risk.
The same applies, by the way, to the logitrans trade fair, which is held in Istanbul, also in November, and is an important link for the markets in the Eurasian region.
Covid-19 has hit the exhibition industry and its employees hard
The second half of the year is therefore planned and is showing positive signs. This is also pleasing for Messe München. Only three trade fairs could be held at the home venue so far this year. Messe München Shanghai has not yet been allowed to organize any trade fairs. Unfortunately, air cargo China has also fallen victim to this directive. We will meet again in Shanghai in the summer of 2022.
Around 800 people work at the company headquarters in Munich. They have been working from home for eight weeks and have to cope with altered work packages. These include personal cuts in working hours and salaries across the entire workforce. Everyone is doing their bit to get through this crisis.
Video conferencing is not a permanent substitute for trade fairs
However, we are all convinced that despite the good experiences of video conferencing and digitalization in many areas, personal exchange is irreplaceable. To look each other in the face - even if it is covered by a mask - or to ask a question during a panel discussion: All this will return, certainly in a different form and with new elements. Yet, trade fairs, just like international aviation, will prove their importance.
For the air cargo industry, this will be the case in 2021, above all at air cargo Africa in Johannesburg and at air cargo Europe. Even today, many are already feverishly awaiting the reunion in Munich in May, saying: Munich is the bearer of hope and has never been more important than today. Stay in touch with us, and above all stay healthy!
We thank Dr. Robert Schönberger of Messe München for illustrating the current dire situation of trade fairs but delivering a promising outlook as well. HS
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