ES. Please share with us your take on this situation
Berislav Čižmek. Event industry across the globe has been challenged by COVID 19 crisis however the industry professionals are very optimistic and confident about the situation for the recovery of the industry after the crisis. Most of the event organizers are planning to start with B2B events after the summer break, mostly in Q42020. Trade fairs/B2B conferences are recognized as very important marketing platforms for the fast recovery of economy, especially for SMEs across Europe.
ES. What can be the recovery guide for the exhibition industry?
Berislav Čižmek. The event industry understands and know the key industry sectors covered by their events very well and will be able to provide needed content to support companies to recover after COVID 19 crisis. The market is expecting different digital and innovative services to be in place for the future events. Event industry will also have to provide the highest safety/hygiene standards for the preparation and organization of the international events based on the success stories from first events organized after COVID 19 crisis in China and South Korea.
ES. What is your take on Virtual exhibitions?
Berislav Čižmek. In my opinion there we can expect to see both virtual and hybrid events happening in the period in front of us. However I would expect that future belongs to live events with hybrid extensions for the existing customers not able to visit the event or for the new customers interested to use hybrid version at first. I do believe that F2F events and communication cannot be totally replaced with virtual events however the crisis has also shown power of digital platforms and innovative online tools in creating and organizing meetings and discussions online. In the future our customers will expect to get besides live event interactive digital platform, integration of new media, Ai and innovative meeting/B2B matchmaking solutions. Still we can expect “new comers” to the event industry, especially the competition of new start up companies that will use the present situation and try to enter offering virtual events to the market events.
ES. What are your comments for the purpose built exhibition and convention centres who have deep rooted investments in their assets?
Berislav Čižmek. It is too soon to bring any decisions in this regard now especially since the problem with surplus of the capacity is existing in event industry world wide till now as well. We had examples in the past, even before COVID 19 crisis, that some of the venues due to the lack of activity because of different reasons (less shows, economy crisis, moving of the guest events to other location, other problems in the market) had to find the new activities taking place in their premises. They were forced to find new tenants for the part of the less occupied areas or completely reconstruct the free areas in existing venues and transform them in shopping malls/sport halls and sport facilities, logistic centres, cinema/entertainment centres or even totally demolish them to make the space free for some future developments. The first events organized after start of COVID 19 in Asia have shown that the interest of exhibitors and visitors is still very high and that is too soon to expect bigger shrinking of the future events.
ES. What do you see as the upcoming emerging trends in the industry ?
Berislav Čižmek. The event industry in Europe and across the globe has very strong market position and excellent relations with national governments, local and international business community (chambers, associations, media) and will be able to adapt to the challenges caused by COVID 19 crisis. However most of the organizers are aware of the fact that “New Normal” for the event industry will put them under high pressure. It will mean fast development of the new digital services in existing F2F events and the fact they most probably will have to face new competition coming from business associations, media companies or new start up companies that will recognize the opportunity to enter the event market with digital type of events (virtual and hybrid shows/conferences) and new innovative services.
ES. What is the silver lining of this pandemic
Berislav Čižmek. COVID 19 pandemic put additional pressure to the event industry to accept digital and innovative solutions and to integrate it faster into daily operations and be able to offer it to the customers. Industry has been forced to the change in bigger and faster way than planned, especially in terms of development of new monetization/business models to be based on digital services and innovative solutions.
ES. What do you suggest to entrepreneurs who are facing stress in these times
Berislav Čižmek. Entrepreneurs are very flexible and understand that the rules for running everyday business operations have changed. Most of them made a very good assessment of the situation and implement new ways of doing business during COVID 19 crisis (working from home, using different ways of government support to keep financial stability, to postpone/cancel events for the later time, cut unnecessary activities and costs) and start to exploring new business models for the future activities.
ES. What is your personal overview of the situation?
Berislav Čižmek. The trade fair industry expects from the government a clear prospect of restarting trade fairs, which mirror the economic situation. However, under the influence of the corona virus crisis and government restrictions, the situation is not good at all. Trade fairs/events are a business platform that will be important for restarting the economy by presenting innovations, new technologies and products and for new orders. Trade fairs provide important impetus to stimulate an economy that has been hit hard by crisis measures. They are platforms for the presentation of innovations, increasing productivity, exports and for negotiating cooperation, especially for small and medium-sized companies
ES. How badly has your region been affected due to this pandemic?
Berislav Čižmek. Since whole Central/South Eastern Europe had a lockout from mid of March till mid of May 2020 most of the companies faced different restrictions, people started to work from home and most of the activities were stopped due to COVID 19 pandemia. However in the most of the countries of Central/SE Europe the number of infected people/deaths was much lower than in Western Europe/USA and crisis was well managed by the governments. Companies connected with travelling, tourism, organization of events are still facing the problems since they have restrictions and very low level of activity and income.
ES. Your 3 takes on how to cope with these times?
Berislav Čižmek. Assess the situation, Innovate and change what is needed and move with your team on to face the future challenges!
ES. What will be the future of business tourism? Europe is opening up. How do you see tourism gradually opening up and what are your suggestions in this regard?
Berislav Čižmek. Already on May 13, 2020 European Commission gave its guidelines for the tourism and transportation inside European Union, which was a very important step in considering traveling across Europe. From 1 July, EU Member States should start lifting restrictions on non-compulsory travel to the EU for residents of the following third countries: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay and PR of China, subject to reciprocity. Croatia is one very popular tourism destination and we opened the borders to tourists and business people from end of May (till last weekend some 350 000 tourists came to Croatia to spend summer holidays or weekends, especially at Adriatic coast), believe that by the time will be more safe and less demanding to travel. Tourism and business tourism were affected by COVID 19 crisis and special protection and safety measures to be taken while travelling.
Believe it will be easier and more acceptable for most of the people to travel by car to tourism destinations than to fly to destinations far away from your country/home. Today we experienced that Slovenia, our neighbouring country, brought decision about additional travelling restrictions for the residents of Croatia and I had to postpone my business trip planned to take place in few days since the travelling would become more difficult and I would have to take additional tests and checking of my health to be able to enter Slovenia.
ES. What is your perspective on Air Travel opening up?
Berislav Čižmek. With the lifting of the restrictions and less COVID 19 cases the air traffic is slowly recovering too, hope it will go in this direction in the future however all air passengers should be aware of the fact that safety and health protocols will be very strict and will influence on our travelling experience. I would expect that air travelling in 2020 will be much lower comparing with the previous years and we will travel by plane for really good reasons and to the destinations which are too far to be reached by car.