A combined group of members from the Association of Event Organisers (AEO), the Association of Event Venues (AEV), and the Event Supplier and Services Association (ESSA), led by the three associations, has secured a go-date of 1 October, 2020 for the UK exhibitions  industry to resume operations.

This date was confirmed by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in an update address on 17 July regarding measures and controls to combat COVID-19 in England. The devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland continue to update their guidance separately. The date is also subject to completion of successful pilots.

Mr Johnson said, ‘From October, we intend to bring back audiences in stadia and to allow conferences and other business events to recommence – again, these changes must be done in a COVID-secure way, subject to the successful outcome of pilots.’

Organisers, venues and suppliers have worked to create COVID-19 safe guidelines, which create the framework for the safe reopening of exhibitions in a COVID-secure way. These guidelines will be issued shortly following final government sign off, but include, and are not limited to, the ability to track and trace audiences, and create bespoke events on a risk-assessed basis.

AEO, AEV and ESSA members have also been working on a ‘Project Confidence’ initiative, a wide-reaching social media campaign across sectors, to re-enforce the message about the safe environments being created, and also the economic impact to the event sector and the supply chains they serve.

Further, Easyfairs, the organiser of Packaging Innovations, has entered into a partnership with SGS, an inspection, verification, testing and certification company, to reinforce its commitment to safeguarding the health and well-being of visitors and exhibitors, as well as Easyfairs employees, at its events and venues.

SGS will provide integrated cleaning and hygiene, and support Easyfairs at all of its global portfolio of exhibition halls by:

  • Verifying enhanced hygiene and disinfection protocols;
  • Validating training plans for employees on implementation of the enhanced health and safety protocols; and
  • Developing a control and monitoring program to ensure these standards are maintained throughout events across the world.

The next edition of Packaging Innovations in London had been scheduled for 23-24 September, 2020, with no word as yet on when the event will run given the 1 October date.

It is hoped that the 1 October, 2020 go-date will allow exhibitors and visitors to restart their planning and, ‘engage with such a crucial trading platform that connects them with customers, and generates trade to support their business, supply chains, and the broader ecosystem of hotels and restaurants throughout the UK,’ according to AEO CEO Chris Skeith.

Mr Skeith continued, ‘We are pleased to see that after months of constructive conversations with the government, a go-date has been issued for the exhibitions industry, which plays a critical role for the UK economy, generating £11 billion in economic activity and supporting 114,000 jobs.’

Under the guise of the Events Industry Alliance, AEO, AEV and ESSA had written to the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak MP, to formally request a go-date for the UK exhibition industry. Read the letter in full here.

AEV director Rachel Parker commented, ‘Collaborative working has been the backbone of our association since its inception; bringing together and working with our colleagues and partners from across the industry has proven that we can gain the attention of government and finally have them listen to our concerns. I am proud of what we have achieved in such a short space of time.’

ESSA director Andrew Harrison added, ‘The work completed so far on this journey has validated the statement that we are always stronger together. My personal thanks to all those who have contributed and for your patience and trust in the process. We are all at slightly different points on the change curve during this crisis, but it is testament to the spirit of the sector that we still relentlessly strive for progress and refuse to be consumed by its negative impact.’