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Coronavirus ‘one of several challenges’ facing events industry

UFI, the global association of the exhibition industry, has postponed its Asia-Pacific conference and Digital Innovation Forum, which was scheduled to take place in Macau early next month.

And the association’s managing director Kai Hattendorf has called on the industry to pull together to ‘find solutions’ to a range of challenges, including climate change and political unrest.

More than 300 delegates were expected at the event, March 4-6, which, due to the coronavirus outbreak in mainland China, will now take place ‘later in the year’.

In a statement UFI said: “Although we know that this is disappointing, of course, we always put the health and safety of our members and staff first. Like many of you faced with similar decisions, and after discussions with our hosts in Macau, we have opted to postpone both events until later in the year. As soon as we have confirmed the new dates, we will share them with you.”

Over the past 14 years, the UFI Asia-Pacific Conference has become one of the exhibition industry’s most important gatherings for learning and networking.

In  a heartfelt plea to members and the industry at large, Hattendorf said: “The new coronavirus is creating uncertainty in public life as well as in our industry. I meant to write these lines about the challenges that we are expecting in the year and years ahead, as we have entered a new decade.

“But, right now, our industry is called to deal with this health threat. As government authorities in China are focusing on public health by shutting down long distance travel, banning public events, and prolonging the spring break holidays, we are seeing many exhibitions and events in China being postponed. Likewise, globally, safety measures are being implemented to prevent the spreading of the virus – as well leading to challenges and empty booths at exhibitions around the world.”

He added: “As world leaders showed in their discussions at the World Economic Forum in Davos just a few weeks back, we are facing issues ranging from the spread of disease (the new coronavirus) to sustainability (cutting carbon emissions), from the climate crisis (the wildfires in Australia) to political unrest. All these topics are challenging for us, as the current outbreak shows all too clearly. We all need to find solutions that guide us toward the future in societies and economies, and in our exhibitions and events as well. Let’s work together to find solutions to the issues!”