Bombay Exhibition Centre to become a vaccination site

Exhibition centers continue to accommodate medical facilities

Previous Media Expo at the Bombay Exhibition Centre
Previous Media Expo at the Bombay Exhibition Centre

In India, extensive facilities such as NESCO, the Bombay Exhibition Centre in Goregaon are being transformed into vaccination centers just as they have been worldwide. The BEC was also used to temporarily house 10,000 migrant workers at the beginning of the Covid-19 induced lockdown last year. Media Expo Mumbai, scheduled to take place at the NESCO in March, has been rescheduled for May. Its organizers, Messe Frankfurt India, are hoping “that with the start of vaccination drives and gradual scaling back of lockdown, we also see confidence returning in the market, and Media Expo will act as a catalyst in the recovery of trade momentum for this sector.” Whether NESCO will be available for trade fairs by that time remains to be seen, given the substantial logistical implications of the vaccine set-up there as much as elsewhere.

When the Covid-19 pandemic started to get out of hand last year, one major trade fair after the other had to be canceled, leaving the world’s exhibition grounds deserted, turning some of these into emergency hospitals for Covid patients. Many of these facilities are still being kept on stand-by or converted into testing or vaccination centers.

ExCel – London

One of the first exhibition grounds to be entirely requisitioned for medical purposes was London’s ExCel. The British Army installed 4,000 hospital beds at the height of the pandemic’s first wave hitting the UK. Soon after, Birmingham’s NEC was to follow with another 4,000 beds. Both are now part of England’s National Health Service Nightingale network of seven exhibition grounds, stadiums, and convention centers converted into emergency field hospitals. Most of these facilities are currently not in use, but they are maintained and kept on stand-by.

Javits Convention Center – New York

One of the first exhibition grounds to be turned into an emergency hospital in the US was the Javits Convention Center in New York. In the heart of Manhattan’s ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ neighborhood, the Center used to be Book Expo America’s main venue. Installed by the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Center’s 2,910 beds remain useful to relieve the city’s hospitals from non-Covid and convalescent patients.

In addition to smaller facilities for testing and hospitalization under tents, such as the one in New York’s Central Park, the Army Corps installed medical facilities in other exhibition and convention centers capable of accomodating hundreds or thousands of hospital beds. A typical example is the Wisconsin State Fair Park and Expo Center, serving as a stand-by hospitalization facility for deployment in the country’s vaccination campaign.

UGI Guide
The UFI Guide for good practices for adapting exhibition and convention centers published by the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry

Messe Wien – Vienna

In Europe, Messe Wien, conveniently located in Vienna’s city center, was the first trade fair center to be converted into a medical facility with 2,240 beds back in March last year. Currently, it serves as Austria’s largest Covid-19 testing facility. Fiera Milano, one of the world’s largest fairgrounds, followed by turning two of its exhibition pavilions into an emergency hospital to relieve the hospitals in the Milan and Lombardia region.

UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, quickly responded with a good practice guide for ‘Convention and Exhibition Centres as Temporary Emergency Facilities’ updated regularly.

Brussels Expo – Brussels

Heysel Center Brussels
The Heysel Center in Brussels to open as a vaccination site from 15 February 2021

Brussels Expo, which is to host Label Expo in September this year, still had high hopes, a few months ago, that it could open its doors for one of Europe’s largest car shows in January. The show was canceled, but Brussels Expo’s senior management invested heavily in a unique UV-C disinfection system installed in all of its exhibition and concert halls, conference rooms, and working spaces. In October last year, one of its halls was turned into a Covid-19 test center. Another hall, the largest, is currently being prepared to become Belgium’s largest vaccination center, opening its doors from 15 February.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

It is the right time to support our high-impact reporting and authoritative and technical information with some of the best correspondents in the industry. Readers can power Indian Printer and Publisher’s balanced industry journalism and help sustain us by subscribing.

– Naresh Khanna

Subscribe Now
Previous articleHeidelberg order levels recovering
Next articleMumbai edition of Media Expo moves to May 2021
Editor of Indian Printer and Publisher since 1979 and Packaging South Asia since 2007. Trained as an offset printer and IBM 360 computer programmer. Active in the movement to implement Indian scripts for computer-aided typesetting. Worked as a consultant and trainer to the Indian print and newspaper industry. Visiting faculty of IDC at IIT Powai in the 1990s. Also founder of IPP Services, Training and Research and has worked as its principal industry researcher since 1999. Author of book: Miracle of Indian Democracy.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here