Bombay Exhibition Centre to become a vaccination site

Exhibition centers continue to accommodate medical facilities

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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.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels 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. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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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.

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