At Maritime Professionals, we have noted great interest from our maritime audience, regarding the present covid-19 situation and how it will impact the exhibition and conference activities. The light tower in the Global maritime exhibition industry, is the major maritime exhibition known as SMM (Shipbuilding, Machinery & Marine) in Hamburg, so we decided to go directly to them and ask them how they see it.
SMM attracts around 50.000 visitors during the 4 days the exhibition is open. 70 international speakers at 5 dedicated conferences, 29 national pavilions and 27 delegations from politics, business and international navies.
We have asked the Manager of the entire event, Claus Ulrich Selbach, Business Unit Director at Hamburg Messe und Congress a number of questions:
Are you still sure that authorities will allow the event?
"Yes, no doubt. The conduction of SMM 2021 will be based on specific Health and Safety Guidelines. As a matter of principle, Hamburg Messe und Congress bases all of its rules and guidelines on the official guidelines of the City of Hamburg and coordinates its measures with the relevant exhibitor advisory boards and industry associations. Our concept intends to provide clear and safe guidance for our exhibitors' own measures. In addition, we want to create a framework that leaves sufficient room to manoeuvre wherever possible."
SMM is an extremely global event with participants from a high number of countries, what measure do you expect to take, to avoid spread of Covid-19?
"We will publish the Health and Safety Guidelines for SMM 21 in October but to give you a glimpse in advance: As a visitor or exhibitor you will need to register online in advance so that you can pass our check in system without queuing and enter the halls directly with either your own mask or one of ours free of charge. The mask must be worn throughout our visit. The number of participants (visitors, exhibitors, HMC staff) will be limited. We will only allow a certain number on the ground and into the halls, so that – in average – participants can keep 1,5 meter distance. The hallways will be broader than in previous years and hall accesses will be counted. If the maximum capacity in a hall will be reached you might have to wait in waiting zones until you can entry. In addition there will be for example hygiene stations everywhere and plexi glas panels at the table and bars of the booths, safety and health notes etc. Via our SMM app each exhibitor will have to register their visitors at the booth and we are able to track everyone who entered the halls. Also, as Hamburg Messe und Congress we have the long-time experience and technique to provide our exhibitors and visitors a perfectly circulated air in the halls and in the transition zones."
We expect that some companies already have cancelled the participation – how many exhibitors are confirmed now, compared to last event?
"As of today, I can gladly say that more than 80% of exhibitors of 2018 are willing to participate from 2-5 February 21 in Hamburg. Even this number still makes SMM #1 worldwide. "
Likewise, we expect that many visitors may be reluctant to travel – how is the amount of registered visitors compared to 4 months before the last event?
"The registration isn’t online yet – this will be the case in early November. Based on our Health and Safety Guidelines, we will reduce the number of participants (including visitors and exhibitors) by 30 per cent compared to 2018. This will allow us to comply with the social distancing rules while accounting for any applicable travelling restrictions. In addition, we are pushing the development of hybrid and digital services for all those who are unable to attend our event in Hamburg this year."
In case, authorities will not allow the event in February, will the event be re-scheduled again – or will you terminate this edition?
"SMM will definitely take place from 2- 5 February 2021 and won’t be re-scheduled. If not as a hybrid format, with exhibitors and visitors in our halls in Hamburg, the show will take place as a digital format. Stay tuned for further updates and details.
Are SMM working with any digital online format as an alternative?
"Yes of course. We are working hard on developing digital formats that will attract both exhibitors and visitors of SMM 21."
How do you see the event business is developing in short – and long term?
"Regarding the material impact of the pandemic on large international exhibitions like SMM in the short and long term I’m optimistic that we will experience new kinds of exhibitions – many of them will be hybrid ones, a mix of digital and offline offers for visitors. We will see shows that will meet both the high safety and health standards and that inspire – may it be online, offline or a little bit of both. There is a lot going on in the industry these days. Of course, nobody knows when this pandemic will be over or how we all will live in a year. But I’m sure about one thing: People are longing for meeting in person again, for experiencing new products and market solutions on their own. This is why I am very optimistic that in the long-term there will always be international exhibitions like SMM – A unique platform where the whole international maritime family gathers at one place throughout a couple of days to explore the whole maritime value chain. This is what makes SMM the leading maritime trade fair today and in the future. A world leading show like SMM will remain the magnet for the industry. Meeting in Hamburg for four days every two years, saves you four months of traveling. "
That was the end of the interview. I don´t know how you, dear reader, is feeling, but I can only agree that I miss seeing real people in real life. MARPRO will be there in February.