Trade Fair SMM Preps for 2021 Restart
Today would have been the day that SMM 2020 opened its doors if it hadn't been for the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, organizers of the maritime industry's largest trade fair are preparing for the rescheduled date in February 2021.
"Of course, the entire SMM team is a bit sad the fair isn't starting today. But increasingly, this regret is giving way to a sense of anticipation of a rather unique SMM in February 2021," says Claus Ulrich Selbach, Business Unit Director – Maritime and Technology Fairs & Exhibitions at Hamburg Messe und Congress GmbH (HMC). “We are pleased to say that more than 80% of SMM 2018 exhibitors will again participate in SMM 2021.”
The international trade fair schedule, much like the rest of the world, has been thrown into disarray by the spread of COVID-19. Now, after more than six months of complete paralysis, the first exhibitor events are being held again, if with restrictions and a limited scope.
Selbach's team is currently working on a concept that will make SMM 2021 possible – and safe – at its new February 2-5 date despite the restrictions necessitated by the pandemic. They are planning a hybrid trade fair that will include on-site exhibitors and visitors as well as online programs for all those who are unable to attend.
"We are trying out a host of new ideas and planning to implement formats never seen at SMM before," Selbach reports, adding, “We want to make sure that both visitors and exhibitors will feel comfortable being at SMM."
Being able to make sure that social distancing rules and reliable contact tracing can be implemented at the exhibition venue is a major achievement for the organizers of SMM. This means that trade fairs are not subject to the ban on major events that will remain in effect in Germany at least until the end of this year.
In about a month, SMM will present to its exhibitors a set of well-structured Health and Safety Guidelines which strictly follow the provisions of the SARS-CoV-2 ordinance imposed by the State and City of Hamburg (Hamburgische SARS-CoV-2-Eindämmungsverordnung). It has been prepared by HMC working closely with the SMM exhibitor advisory board, the health and safety experts of several major exhibitors, and other SMM partners. The Health and Safety Guidelines require preregistration for the fair, set a maximum daily limit for the number of exhibitors and visitors on site, specify wider aisles and plexiglass partitions at exhibition stands, and stipulate participant tracking in the exhibition halls as well as many other precautionary measures.
"In the first days of November, we will finally know who is moving with us into February and whether SMM will be a hybrid or purely digital event. As of today, the feedback from the industry is very positive: more than 80% of the exhibitors from 2018 want to join us in February. And new registrations keep coming in," organizers said in a letter to registered attendees on Tuesday.
"Of course, we’re well aware that the pandemic is still developing very dynamically and that nobody knows what the situation will be next year. We promise you that we’ll do everything we can to ensure that after a long period of social distancing, the maritime world will meet again on the most international platform the industry has to offer," the letter continued.
"You can meet the whole wide world via the internet but it is never the same as being at an event like SMM where all members of the shipping community come together, network and discuss the issues," says Sadan Kaptanoglu, President and Chairperson of the board of BIMCO, the world's largest organization for shipowners, charterers, ship brokers and agents.
Klaus Deleroi, General Manager of Reintjes, one of the world's leading manufacturers of ship gearboxes, says, "We definitely can work in our home offices for a certain period of time by using all digital communication tools, but doing real business needs seeing and talking to people in real. I am happy that SMM is only postponed and not canceled.”
The pandemic has turned the trade fair world upside down. But a disruptive event can open up new perspectives for hosts, exhibitors and visitors alike. This is why Selbach is optimistic about the future: “After the coronavirus pandemic, trade fairs will never again be the way they used to be. Even when people are able to travel without restrictions again, we will make use of the wide-ranging options of the digital age. They harbor great potential for trade fair operators and visitors alike."