Following Grohe’s decision to pull out of ISH 2021 over health and safety fears, Iris Jeglitza-Moshage, chief of communications, at Messe Frankfurt, insists that all plans are in place to ensure the safety of exhibitors and visitors
Grohe has announced that it is pulling out of next year’s ISH trade show in Germany after criticising the organiser’s covid-19 plan as ‘unsatisfactory’, sparking fears that more big names will withdraw. It also said that the current situation means any large events in Europe are ‘an almost incalculable risk’.
However, speaking exclusively to kbbreview, Iris Jeglitza-Moshage, chief of communications, at Messe Frankfurt, insists that its plans do protect the safety of exhibitors and visitors and meet all official guidelines.
Q: Has Grohe’s withdrawal come as a surprise?
A: We have been planning ISH since October of last year. The coronavirus has changed a lot and, as you can understand, there is a very significant need for communication now that we finally have clarity about the safety and hygiene arrangements.
Companies are dealing with this in very different ways. Some are already making every effort to adapt their presentation to the new conditions. Some have decided, after weighing the matter carefully, to suspend their attendance at ISH for 2021. Of course we are sorry to see this, but we respect their decisions.
But we are always looking ahead and feel spurred on to design a successful ISH for all who will be attending.
Q: Do you think it will lead to other big brands pulling out for similar reasons?
A: We are optimistic, but realistic too. We are in close contact with all firms and finding gratifying responses to the hygiene arrangements with many companies now registering because they definitely need the platform and are thoroughly satisfied with our event concept, which covers arrangements for proper hygiene, medical questions and organisational measures in a comprehensive way.
A major plus point in this concept is the way in which we are able to replace the air in our exhibition halls completely with fresh air several times a day. In this context, may I say that the exhibitors in the air-conditioning and ventilation industry have been doing wonders at ISH.
Q: What big bathroom brands have pledged their commitment to attend?
A: As things stand at present, numerous well-known manufacturers in the ‘Bathroom Experience’ sector have confirmed their attendance at ISH 2021. The ISH team is in constant contact with them to determine how the regulations can be put into practice in a concrete way. The majority of exhibitors are adapting to the new situation and are even coping with it in a really creative spirit. We shall be announcing shortly who will be attending.
Q: It is unusual for a company to announce its withdrawal in this way. Is there some acrimony?
A: No, each company communicates in its own way and, of course, we respect that. We are keen to maintain good relations with all our customers and that means the exhibitors. We are partners to the industry.
Q: In its statement, Grohe draws particular attention to your health and safety plans being ‘unsatisfactory for the brand’. What does this mean?
A: Unfortunately, the current regulations compel everyone – compel us, the organiser, as well as the exhibitors – to rethink their presentation concepts. We can change nothing in the rules issued by the health authorities, though they are also constantly adapting to reflect new situations.
But each company must weigh that up for itself. Some exhibitors, including Grohe, asked whether ISH cannot be postponed. We looked very carefully into that possibility. Now, ISH is a huge event, which – if you include setting up and dismantling – occupies the Fair & Exhibition Centre for about 30 days. We do not have such a broad timeslot in Frankfurt in the Autumn, for instance. The only alternative as regards time would have been in Summer, but our sponsoring associations rejected this unanimously as unacceptable.
Q: What measures are you planning to ensure ISH goes ahead and is safe for visitors and exhibitors?
A: The hygiene and safety arrangements are of course based on the requirements currently in force. Overall, our concept has three major elements: firstly, social distancing of 1.5m, so that the obligatory wearing of masks can be avoided.
Secondly, an active visitor-management system, which will allow us to guide streams of visitors in an optimum way. Given the size of ISH, however, there will be no restriction on the overall number of visitors.
And thirdly, hygiene measures. Provision of visitor data to the authorities in case of contact tracing will be undertaken by Messe Frankfurt. Moreover, we are planning digital hybrid supplementary formats at ISH so that visitors who may not have an opportunity to travel can still take part in selected events, programme features, product presentations, and similar facilities.
Q: What kind of expectations do you have for visitor and exhibitor numbers compared to ‘normal’ years.
A: In general, holding events will also depend on the arrangements governing air travel, rail travel and public transport, and how far travel restrictions are lifted. In the case of ISH we are assuming that at least European travel will be possible as it is now. Thus visitors from Germany and Europe will be able to travel safely. The majority of exhibitors and visitors at ISH has always been strongly national and European in its composition. If we make a simplified calculation, basing it on visitors from Germany and Europe at ISH 2019, then this would still give a potential 160,000 to 170,000 visitors.
Given the trade fairs which have been cancelled this year, exhibitors urgently need a suitable platform once more to present themselves. But, of course, we also have exhibitors from countries who may not be able to travel here. But their number is not so large.
Q: How important is it that shows like ISH continue?
A: The present situation shows clearly how important personal meetings between individual people really are. ISH in March 2021 will be the first worldwide sanitation, heating and ventilation event to have been held since the outbreak of the coronavirus. After months of stoppage in the trade-fair business, the industry’s need is pressing. To see new products and to do business – but, above all and most particularly – to have personal meetings and conversations.
It is precisely in times like these that trade fairs are vital business platforms for stimulating the economy. And, as a result of the coronavirus, topics such as touchless taps and fittings, drinking-water hygiene in buildings, or equipping schools with proper sanitary facilities have gained much greater importance.
The industry urgently needs ISH now, in order to get going properly again. It is, and will remain, the most important venue for personal meeting and business contact in the sanitation, heating and ventilator sector.