Now that the Boston seafood show has been postponed, the question becomes: Will anyone attend a rescheduled event?
Diversified Communications, organizers of the trade show, said Tuesday it is still hoping to have a 2020 event either in Boston or another US city, and exhibitors will have the option of rolling over their exhibition fees to the new event or to the 2021 Boston show. It expects to make an announcement related to the potential rescheduling of the 2020 show by mid-April.
Of course, the rescheduling of the show, first and foremost, assumes the coronavirus outbreak and accompanying overabundance of caution will subside. You would expect that it will, but there is no way of knowing whether we are at the beginning or end of this outbreak.
I think Diversified would be reluctant to reschedule the event if there is any chance it would have to cancel or postpone a second time. Additionally, the group still has its Brussels seafood show to deal with.
There is no guarantee Brussels will go off as planned. Exhibitor numbers at this point are off by about 20 percent from last year’s attendance, but there is no way of knowing how much, if any, of that drop is attributable to coronavirus concerns.
And it is worth noting that last year Diversified acquired Aquaculture UK, a trade show focused on the aquaculture sector in the United Kingdom. The biennial expo is slated to take place May 19 -21 at the Macdonald Aviemore Highland Resort in Scotland. No word yet on the status of that event.
The feeling out in the industry seems very mixed concerning a rescheduled Boston show.
Many exhibitors I spoke with just don't think it is feasible to recreate the show at another time or location, citing the headaches of logistics and a likely reluctance or inability of buyers to make the event.
The seafood event calendar is crowded more than ever before, some exhibitors told me, with Boston in March, Brussels in April, AquaVision in June, the Groundfish Forum, the GOAL conference in October and the China seafood show in November , in addition to other events. But perhaps the show organizers can find a spot on the calendar.
Certainly, there will be companies that will attend a rescheduled show, but it's unlikely any such event will attract the roughly 1,300 exhibitors a regular Boston show brings in.
The folks at Diversified are in a tough spot, but the majority of exhibitors and attendees I have spoken with over the past week said the company did the right thing canceling the event out of concern over the virus and the difficult choice attending the event forced upon exhibitors and attendees.
And Boston is not the only seafood show to be postponed. TUNA 2020, the 16th Infosfish World Tuna Trade Conference & Exhibition announced this week it is postponing and rescheduling that event. It was slated for late May.
There is no winner when these major trade shows are disrupted, but we have seen it occurring more frequently -- the Brussels show in 2016 after terrorist attacks; Seafood Asia event in 2019 canceled because of civil unrest.
These shows will and must go on, and the majority of them go off without a problem. But there is no doubt that the 2020 trade show season will not soon be forgotten.
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