Drupa 2021 cancelled

Drupa 2021, already postponed from its original date this year, has now been cancelled, meaning that we will have to wait until 2024 for the next scheduled show.

Happier times – Drupa 2012 ©Nessan Cleary.

The organisers, Messe Dusseldorf, have cancelled a number of events up to April 2021, citing the current Covid-19 infection situation, existing travel restrictions and the legal framework. Erhard Wienkamp, COO for Messe Düsseldorf, specifically addressed the decision over Drupa, saying: “We have taken this decision in consultation with our partners, who are entirely supportive of it. It was preceded by a detailed process of considering the current conditions and the needs of the industry.”

In reality, there was little choice since many exhibitors had already pulled out, including HP, Heidelberg, Kodak, EFI and Xerox as well as most of the main Japanese vendors of Fujifilm, Ricoh, Canon, Konica Minolta and Komori. In addition, the uncertainty around travel restrictions have meant that many visitors have put off booking hotel and travel arrangements. Drupa’s strength, it’s importance to the industry, lies in being an all-inclusive event that attracts so many vendors and exhibitors that it’s the obvious testing ground for concepts and prototypes and the best launchpad for new products. But even if the 2021 show had gone ahead it would inevitably have been a lesser event.

In the meantime, there will be a four-day digital event, the ‘virtual.drupa’, that will run from 20 – 23 April 2021 during the time frame Drupa was originally scheduled for. Claus Bolza-Schünemann, chairman at Koenig and Bauer and president of Drupa, commented: “A virtual event is exactly the right format in the current time.” 

He continued: “Attending Drupa under the usual parameters was just too great a risk for many exhibitors, given declining export and turnover figures, as well as significant travel restrictions, which would also affect visitors. The new digital forum is a virtual platform, providing a reliable pillar and an opportunity to maintain valuable communications within the industry until 2024.” 

Messe Dusseldorf has already established an online preview platform back in October, though this was really meant as a temporary staging post between the original 2020 show and its newer 2021 dates. This has now been repurposed as the four-day digital event, designed to give exhibitors the opportunity to showcase themselves and their products virtually. There’s a matchmaking feature to help them maintain existing contacts and establish new ones. It also includes five Drupa hot spots that should allow for some kind of online knowledge sharing. 

Messe Dusseldorf is planning to charge visitors for tickets to this event though it’s not clear at this stage why any visitors would pay to attend. The event mostly seems to be designed to reassure exhibitors that they will still be able to market their products but realistically, who wants to pay just to hear someone else’s marketing message? 

Dr Markus Heering, managing director of the VDMA Printing and Paper Technology Association, commented: “Our members are telling us, that trade fairs to drive their business forward are still in great demand. The value and appeal of Drupa remain intact. The decision to suspend it in 2021 is entirely down to the pandemic.”

He added: “In the long run, it is important for all of us to maintain Drupa as an international platform in Europe, as it displays the diversity of our industry. 200 years of expertise are rooted in Europe and must continue. However, we welcome the introduction of the new digital platform as an interim solution until 2024.” 

As well as Drupa, Messe Dusseldorf has also cancelled a number of other shows, including the packaging show Interpack. However, the boating show, Boot 2021, has merely been postponed from January to April 2021with Messe Dusseldorf saying that it will “focus on kick-starting the trade fair business with boot 2021 in late April and assumes that by then the general pandemic situation and the opportunities for action will have developed positively.”

This suggests to me that the problems behind the Drupa event went beyond the simply logistics of organising an event in April in the midst of the pandemic. Instead the bigger issue is likely to have been the sheer number of high profile exhibitors that had already pulled out. In many cases, these vendors have talked about setting up their own customer events, and Messe Dusseldorf must have seen the risk that Drupa could go the same way as the UK’s Ipex event. So personally I think that this was the right decision because even if the various vaccines prove effective and the situation improves in 2021, it’s likely to be a couple of years before both visitors and exhibitors are willing to commit to an international gathering on the scale of Drupa.

The virtual Drupa will take place from 20-23 April 2021 with the pricing for visitor tickets still to be announced, though the cost for the basic exhibitors’ package has been set at €4,900. However, the next actual Drupa event will be 28 May to 7 June 2024. In the meantime, Messe Dusseldorf will refund visitor tickets for this year’s event. Further details from drupa.com.

…with a little help from my friends

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