Op-Ed: ‘The Exhibition-Congress Industry will Emerge Stronger from the Covid-19 Adventure’ – Kyriakos Pozrikidis
Kyriakos Pozrikidis, the CEO of Greece’s national exhibition body TIF-Helexpo, tells us that he is optimistic and believes that the exhibition-congress industry and the tourism industry will both emerge stronger from the Covid-19 adventure.
Currently, exhibitions internationally are searching for a point from which to restart and regain balance. It all comes down to the vaccines, and as soon as exhibition events commence, even at a slow pace, there will be more.
Exhibition activity is inseparably connected to event tourism, which is very important, but demands a different strategy than the rest of tourism.
According to data from the Union des Foires Internationals, exhibition activity in 2020 fell to 1/3 of previous years. A turnover of 158 billion euros was lost, along with 2 million jobs and 260 million euros in contracts of companies that were to participate in fairs that never took place.
It makes sense that this loss had a direct and indirect impact on tourism, as well as on local economies in the areas where exhibition centres are located and active.
‘It is obvious that trade fairs will play an important role in the recovery following the pandemic, but they must change. Every exhibition organiser must prepare a digital proposal for the market.’
Exhibition activities with a physical presence are irreplaceable, but at the same time hybrid exhibition events are expected to play an increasingly important role internationally.
Hybrid events, which combine digital interaction with a limited presence following a strict protocol, are already a reality for exhibition organisations, which are trying to respond to the challenges of the pandemic, while also satisfying their customers’ needs.
It is obvious that trade fairs will play an important role in the recovery following the pandemic, but they must change. Every exhibition organiser must prepare a digital proposal for the market.
However, digital exhibitions do not have a secondary impact on the local economy or local growth.
The exhibition centre is more than economic infrastructure. There is a social aspect to it. Exhibitions with a physical presence can never be replaced, because they have the absolute advantage of ‘meeting’ all 5 senses of visitors.
‘The «day after» for the exhibition industry will certainly be safer than the day before.’
TIF-Helexpo is still intensely active with regards to recommencing with exhibitions and congresses, as well as with implementing the major restoration project of the Exhibition and Congress Centre of Thessaloniki.
The revitalisation project has drawn the interest of the crème de la crème of leading architecture firms internationally, and its design will include the most modern developments in this sector, leading to the implementation of a bioclimatic construction project of the highest aesthetic value, respectful of the environment and the city, and which will harmoniously blend into the vision of the bodies and citizens for a Thessaloniki of the future.
The project includes the creation of an open green space of approximately 15 acres, suitable for recreation and outdoor cultural uses.
Determining the losses from the suspension of exhibition activities, obviously has a much broader economic impact.
In any case, the “day after” for the exhibition industry will certainly be safer than the day before.
‘For tourism to survive it must adapt, take into account all the new conditions and risks, and provide a product that offers the guarantees necessary to inspire trust in potential customers.’
I believe that tourism activity must inspire this sense of security both in Greece and abroad.
The tourism industry was shaken to its core by the pandemic, revealing how “sensitive” the sector can be to such “once-every-100-years” events.
For tourism to survive it must adapt, take into account all the new conditions and risks, and provide a product that offers the guarantees necessary to inspire trust in potential customers.
It will take a few years to absorb the losses due to pandemic, but I am optimistic, since I believe that both the exhibition-congress industry, and the tourism industry, will emerge stronger from this adventure.