Why Isn't Drupa Canceling 2021?

By Andreas Weber & Morten B. Reitoft

The past months must have been terrible for drupa and Messecenter Düsseldorf. Trade-media has swelled in cancelation stories, and everybody is holding their breath discussing whether drupa takes place or not. 

drupa continues to push the event, almost as if they are blind and nearly as if they haven't noticed the challenges the pandemic is causing for the global printing industry. drupa trends talk about purchasing behavior before the pandemic, but guys, the world has changed. The measures from before corona aren't the same. drupa keeps pushing statements from exhibitors committing to drupa, but do these statements relate to you at all? Of course, we all want to meet in person. Of course, we all want to see new equipment and applications. Of course, we would love to find inspiration. It's just the risk that keeps us away!

drupa also push information about their safety precautions, and yes, this may be after the book - but bigger questions are in play. How can drupa take ANY relevant measures in October 2020 when nobody can know what precautions are important/needed/required in April 2021? If the statements about meeting people are right - which we recognize 100% - then an essential part of drupa is the night-life. Drinking beers and maybe also consume a bit more alcohol than normal - than what? Are drupa and the city blind to the effect this can have on the spread of corona? Do drupa expect that corona by April 2021 is over? Do they believe that a vaccine can be globally distributed and readily available on a scale that will secure travel?

Most of the world is influenced by the second COVID-19-wave right now. What we have learned so far is, by all measures, that the opposite of tradeshows works. Social distancing and social gatherings in only smaller groups is the ONLY solution to COVID-19 that has resulted in lower infection numbers. drupa is the opposite.drupa, of course, know all the above, and the only sound question right now is WHY? Why are drupa not canceling the 2021 edition of the show and look ahead to the 2024 edition? To understand this, we need to dig into the exhibition terms. The terms do not mention 'pandemic' with one single word. This can be justified for the 2020 edition since most vendors signed up for drupa 2020 way before the term was known by most. When drupa 2020 was postponed, most vendors agreed to move the contracts to 2021 rather than canceling their participation. For drupa, this must have been a blessing like never before. 

The terms do specify drupa's right to "postpone, curtail, extend, temporarily close, partially or completely, or cancel the trade fair, should it be necessary, for reasons beyond their control, and taking into consideration the interests of the exhibitors in so doing."This essentially means that drupa under Force Majeure can do anything they want, and the exhibitor's right is limited. Exhibitors are still obligated under all circumstances to honor the contract - also in relation to payments. Force Majeure situations are, fortunately, not seen very often. 

To cancel a tradeshow like drupa is not an easy thing. It's very much about who is going to pay. If the organizer change terms - like changing dates - exhibitors could probably get out of the contract easier if drupa changed this in times without a pandemic - but with the Force Majeure situation, drupa has all the cards on their hand - MAYBY. What drupa did was a smart thing because updating the agreement to the new dates, but without updating the terms, drupa bought itself time.

80+ exhibitors have already canceled their participation, and with cancelation fees in the range of 75%, exhibitors burn money considerably. Some of the exhibitors, who still haven't chosen to pull the plug, hope that drupa will cancel the show, so drupa will be obligated to return the full payment. But such obligations do not exist in the terms - sorry. drupa, on the other side, want to wait for as long as possible, so exhibitors will have to pay the second 50% invoice due November 30th. It's a dirty game of who has the most nerve. 

For drupa, this is about money - a lot of money. In the article published by INKISH yesterday, you saw the difference between a drupa vs. non-drupa year. The revenue of drupa can easily be in the range of € 100-150 million, and of course, big money apparently influences morale. When we noticed that the drupa terms weren't updated, we first believed this was a mistake. Why should Messecenter Düsseldorf and drupa NOT want to mention the pandemic in their terms? Under normal circumstances, you want a contract to reflect reality. But, if drupa would have added a clause about the pandemic, exhibitors could use that as an excuse to terminate and cancel the contracts. At least for now, it seems the pandemic continues to develop. Using the same terms, drupa closed their eyes and maybe deliberately hoped that all exhibitors from 2020 would silently move the dates and their commitment. 

I believe that almost all of us have made errors. Errors happen, and when mistakes or incidents happen, the way these are resolved judges your character.

It's nobody's fault that the pandemic is causing trouble. The way drupa moves forward is not only a question about what they are legally obligated to but maybe even more how they handle this miserable situation. The money that almost 1.500 exhibitors have invested in drupa was supposed to bring revenue, profit, and new opportunities to the industry. Now the money is lost. The value of drupa has to be put into perspective.

What if only 50.000 visitors dare to travel to Düsseldorf? Or 100.000?What happens to the entire value of the show when the 80+ cancelations are not only tiny exhibitors but exhibitors like: Adolf Brodbeck GmbH & Co. KG, Al Baraka Paper Converting Co., Al Burhan Manufacturing & Trading, Al - Husein International Ltd., Barberan S.A., Baumer hhs GmbH, Bostik S.A., Britten, Inc, C&K; Extrusions Ltd., Canon Europa N.V., Care Graphic Machinery Ltd., Chromasens GmbH, Contiweb B.V., DC DruckChemie GmbH, Dürselen GmbH & Co. KG, Edale Limited, EFI Electronics for Imaging, Inc., EL-KO s.a.s, ELETTRA S.r.l., ESSMANN + SCHAEFER GMBH + CO. KG, FEDRIGONI S.p.A., Felix Böttcher GmbH & Co. KG, Futec Europe GmbH, Hamta International Group pvt. Sezavarbandi Mohammad Reza, Heidelberg, Heights (UK) Ltd., Heinrich Erdmann GmbH, Hi-Tech Chemicals BVBA, HP Deutschland GmbH, HYBRID Software GmbH, IDEAL Krug & Priester GmbH & Co. KG, Industria de Maquinas Miruna Ltda., Karl Marbach GmbH & Co. KG, KCM - Kashif Graphische Maschinen Kashif Chotani, KINYO EUROPE GmbH, Konica Minolta Business Solutions Europe GmbH, Lotus Holland BV, marks-3zet GmbH & Co. KG, Matthews Europe GmbH, Miraclon BVBA, MPI PAPERS PVT LTD, Newtown Packaging Limited, Nordson Deutschland GmbH, Novurania S.p.A., Omet S.r.l., OVIT S.r.l., Pasaban S.A., Phoseon Technology Corp., Powis Parker, Printer's Parts & Equipment Ltd., printIQ Europe LTD, proseco software GmbH, Ricoh Europe PLC, Robatech GmbH, Shilp Gravures ltd, Sitma Machinery S.p.A., Softal Corona & Plasma GmbH, Temac S.r.l., Thieme GmbH & Co. KG, Think Laboratory Co., Ltd., Tresu A/S, Tritron GmbH, Uteco Converting SPA, W. H. Leary Co. Inc., Yuke GmbH, YWDS Korea Co. Ltd.

Many more may be on the list - and if any mentioned above is still exhibiting, we apologize. drupa has not made a complete list of cancelations and how space has been canceled. We made this list by comparing a 2020 and 2020 HTML list - available on drupa's website + from the Wayback Machine.Of the exhibitors still on the list (1.543), they come from the following countries:

A 19
CH 45
CY 2
CZ 7
D 391
DK 10
E 32
ET 7
EW 1
F 30
FL 1
GB 69
GR 3
H 5
HK 8
HR 1

You can ask yourself what countries will expose their employees to a potential threat? China? The USA? India? Italy? The UK? Well, these five countries represent 700+ exhibitors. Or will you go to drupa without most major vendors to see exhibitors of Chinese or Indian consumables? And will there be any visitors from outside Europe or even Germany?

What is the quality of drupa as an exhibition if most major suppliers don't exhibit? What is the impact of reducing the show to 9 days instead of 11? And has the reduced number of days reduced the price of exhibiting? And in case yes, what about the already booked hotels? Restaurants etc.?

The cancelation of booth-space is in the thousands of square meters. drupa has not even now delivered a floor plan, so everybody knows what to expect.

We also KNOW from talking to several vendors that they have down-sized their booth-space, and more have even expressed that they will NOT bring any equipment to the show - if it takes place.

So the conclusion must be that fewer exhibitors, fewer square meters, less equipment on the floor, no parties and after-hours, face masks, visors, and we would imagine an extremely limited number of visitors.

This is THE drupa that Messecenter Düsseldorf work on becoming a reality in 2021.

We wrote above that this is MAYBE the situation for drupa. Would you consider spending money on a tradeshow in the future if your investment in the future is so vulnerable?As it looks now, drupa is offloading the entire risk of having a trade show to their customers - and the question we can't help asking - how can you trust Messecenter Düsseldorf your precious marketing money in the future. We believe the risk assessment has to change if drupa will ever be able to open the doors again.