IMEX Frankfurt is the latest business event tradeshow to fall victim to concerns about mass gatherings as Covid-19 outbreaks increase in Europe.
Ray Bloom, IMEX chairman and Carina Bauer, chief executive (above), said the decision to cancel the show was taken with a “heavy heart”.
They cited the German health minister’s call for events of more than 1,000 people to be banned as authorities struggle to contain the coronavirus outbreak, which on March 11 was classified a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.
The IMEX announcement comes as Italy closes its borders and US president Donald Trump suspends all travel from continental Europe to the United States as the number of confirmed Covid-19 worldwide cases surges past 120,000.
Bloom and Bauer admit that they were too confident about the show’s May date being far enough ahead that plans had continued to be made. But they announced on March 11 that “we cannot guarantee the one thing that our exhibitors trust us above all else to deliver – namely a large-scale, high quality hosted buyer programme”.
“In an ideal world we would wait and see. But we are in the real world and we cannot, in all good conscience, ask our exhibitors to continue to invest money against which they may not get a return,” they said in a statement.
“Both of these factors – uncertainty around whether IMEX will be allowed to proceed, as well as doubts as to the number of buyers who will be able to attend – have led us to the conclusion that we now have no option but to cancel IMEX in Frankfurt.
“We want to make it very clear that we have made this decision based purely on the facts as we know them today and, importantly for the whole IMEX team, based on the responsibility and genuine care we feel for all our clients and the global business events community.
“IMEX is our family business and the business events community is the only community we serve.”
Industry leaders, including UFI’s Kai Hattendorf and ICCA’s James Rees and Senthil Gopinath, said the cancellation was unfortunate but expressed support for the decision.
Bloom and Bauer said plans for IMEX America in September would continue with preparations for the Las Vegas show’s 10th anniversary in “full swing”.
IMEX Frankfurt 2021 has been scheduled for May 25-27.