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The Curtains Fall. The Show Starts?

By Andreas Weber & Morten B. Reitoft

This week's articles about drupa have raised quite a good number of comments and interactionsI And of course, quite a good reach! Executives from the vendors have written mainly privately, and media friends have been diverse in their opinion about our articles, but with all we do, the intentions are the debates. At least it shows that its more than important to put things into the right context. And to analyze what’s happening from different perspectives. 

What print experts from around the world who have read our Drupa stories have realized: When we talk about Drupa, we're talking about the DNA of the ”Druck und Papier“ (print and paper) business. And there is no room for infatuation or even ignorance of reality.  And yes, we at INKISH like other media companies do have a new opportunity if drupa is withdrawn. However, the opportunity for drupa NOT canceled is by far more significant.  

The future of drupa is one of the questions you can ask but not expect anything but speculations. 

Some media believe that drupa will take place in 2021 but as a smaller and more regional trade show. Though drupa hasn't presented a 2021 floorpan yet, we know from several vendors a couple of things – let's list some of the facts: 

- 80+ major exhibitors have already canceled; HP, Konica-Minolta, Canon, Ricoh, Heidelberg, Komori, BOBST, manroland sheetfed, and Xerox. All exhibitors with enormous booths and companies that attract a lot of visitors. 

- We know for sure that many exhibitors who have not canceled yet will have considerably smaller booths: Hunkeler, Horizon, Glunz & Jensen, to mention a few. These companies also attract many people, and you can wonder whether their promotion of being at drupa will be down-scaled – and therefore influence the number of visitors negatively? 

- We know that many exhibitors will bring no or less equipment to drupa 2021 – which, of course, will influence the visitor experience.

- We know that some vendors are reluctant to let their employees be potentially imposed on a health risk – so the number of staff on the booth will under all circumstances be fewer. German laws even make it criminal for companies to 'force' their employees to be working in places where they can be potentially infected. 

drupa 2021 will therefore be a considerably different show than normal. From a visitor's perspective, one can only speculate about how it will be, but let's try. 

drupa continues to underscore that safety is its highest priority, and we, of course, don't question that – but by today's measures, mean face masks or visors, social distancing, and a limited number of people gathered at public places. For now, all large gatherings are banned in Germany till the end of the year.  

Immunity or a widely distributed vaccine program by April 2021 is 100% unlikely, so IF drupa can occur, it will be with a lot of restrictions and limitations.

The airline industry has already announced that they don't expect "normal" travel conditions before 2022, so bringing people to Düsseldorf is maybe not impossible, but most likely very regulated as well.

Note: At this point it’s worth to read what AUMA (the German association of trade show organizers) recommends: 

Basic points of all hygiene concepts and social distancing measures for your safety are for example:

- Keeping a minimum distance of 1.5 meter between all persons on the exhibition centers
- Stream of visitors is controlled at entry areas and within the halls by consistent crowd management to avoid a high concentration of people
- Complete registration of visitors, exhibitor and service staff and other participants to enable tracking
- Observance of strict sanitary rules on the exhibition centers; especially frequent cleaning cycles for shared facilities and contact surfaces
- Good aeration of entry areas, halls and conference rooms by modern ventilation installation
- Numerous possibilities of hand disinfection placed throughout the exhibition centre
- No welcome rituals like handshakes
-Wearing a face mask is recommended and to some extent obligatory.

All that will not create pleasure during a trade show. It’s stressing and quite annoying.

Visitors at drupa 2021 will NOT experience a blast from the future. The exhibitors that made drupa 2016 a fantastic experience will not be there except Highcon, Landa, Scodix, Koenig & Bauer (though their show presence always was in the past more conventional, to be honest.) Visitors from overseas are almost unlikely to meet as well – not only because of the limited booths at Ddrupa, but also travel restrictions for many will be highly limited if not immunity or a vaccine is widely delivered.  

If drupa 2021 will occur, it will be an amputated experience for both exhibitors and visitors, and Ddrupa as a brand will suffer. For Messecenter Düsseldorf as drupa organizer, it seems that their legal obligations will secure them, and therefore we once again don't understand why they don't pull the plug for 2021? 

Messecenter Düssldorf is not obligated to repay the entire participation-fee if they cancel due to the COVID-19 pandemic  since it's considered a Force Majeure situation. If anybody believes – based on the facts above – that drupa can be a success – you must be seeing something we simply can't see?

If drupa delivers a show with a deficient visitor number, and maybe mostly with visitors from Germany, will they then be able to rise again to become the beacon they used to be? 

As mentioned in previous articles, you will always be measured by your doings. If drupa plans to offload the entire financial burden to their exhibitors, will anybody trust them in the future?

But anyway. Don’t lose hope. Be confident. Stay safe and healthy.