With SPS cancelled with just a week’s notice before it was meant to go ahead, it’s been a stark reminder that the COVID-19 pandemic is still a threat to trade shows. With increasing infection rates in Germany resulting in tighter restrictions for events, the show had no choice but to cancel due to the new limitations put in place.

But up until this point, SPS was predicted to go ahead successfully. Events such as productronica were able to go ahead in mid-November and did see around 20,000 visitors from nearly 70 countries, which were required to either be recovered from a COVID-19 infection, be vaccinated or have a negative PCR test result.  Although the number of visitors was about half from the heady days of the mid 2010s, this has shown that there is definitely still life in shows, and people are prepared to travel to them. In fact, the number of visitors was much higher than expected by the productronica events team, and visitors travelled from across Europe, with the top 10 visitor countries including Italy, France, Austria, Switzerland, Great Britain and the Netherlands.

With the outcome of productronica presenting the viewpoint that there ‘is no alternative to personal contact’, trade shows are making a valiant effort to ensure face to face conversations between exhibitors and visitors can go ahead once more. But with COVID rates going up for winter, there is still a huge risk around attending events, particularly as European governments introduce lockdowns as the infection rates go up. Only time will tell whether trade shows can return to their full strength once more, and we know many in the industry will be looking forward to this day.