On 1 September 2020, Screen Graphic Solutions announced the cancellation of its participation in drupa 2021. Its statement said, “Screen Graphic Solutions Co., Ltd. (SCREEN GA) has decided not to participate in the drupa 2021 international printing/media trade show. We have made this decision based on sensible precautions after considering the current circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic and the growing opportunities for virtual experiences provided by new communications technologies.
“With both market and social conditions undergoing such drastic changes, SCREEN GA believes it is essential to accelerate timely communication with our customers and partners. We are continuously creating both virtual and physical communication opportunities designed to ensure the best possible experience.”
As we have written recently, exhibition organizers will have to think beyond postponements, since every major company that has withdrawn from the drupa postponed to April 2021 has cited the new virtual and physical communication opportunities. For instance, Screen is in the finishing stages of a new 43,000 square-foot Customer Experience Center near Chicago in the United States. It is a matter of time before more local and national demonstration and training centers are established. And in smaller markets, they may have to be both collaborative and cooperative.
Apart from the cost of exhibiting, the already considerable uncertainty of who will attend international exhibitions is increased by the uncertainties of the pandemic. The spread, recoveries, fatalities, and resources vary in each country, city, and region. When there are containment areas and quarantines for travelers within a country, international travel protocols are bound to be complicated beyond mere visas, quarantine regulations, and air connections. The risks of virus resurgence and that of travelers falling ill in a foreign country, together with the fact that they were the initial super spreaders, means that organizers need to think very seriously beyond postponements.
As far as drupa 2021, Bobst was the first to say it would not take part, and then came Xerox. Heidelberg was third, and then came Manroland Sheetfed and Komori. And now, Screen is the sixth significant cancellation that we are aware of. In the meantime, the Messe Dusseldorf organizers have shortened drupa to eight days — to take place from 20 to 28 April 2021.
In an interview, Markus Heering of the German VDMA has said that drupa will have to have a virtual or digital component since so many will not attend. With the situation of the Covid-19 pandemic still affecting large regions, including India, with an exponential increase in infections, and a second and third wave in several countries in Europe, it seems that the industry will have to look beyond 2021 and possibly beyond exhibitions.