After the pandemic forced the cancellation of exhibitions and conferences earlier this year, many trade shows and conference facilities were hoping to reopen in the summer with a limited number of small shows.
Opening up too quickly turned out to be a disaster for everybody around. Fortunately, the authorities are now aware that when the infection rate is declining, that is time to continue enforcing the same measures, not relaxing them. This could be difficult to explain to the thousands of businesses forced to close their doors, not knowing if they could survive.
In Barcelona, a city that received over 2.5 million trade shows' attendees in 2019, Fira Barcelona, after going through a complete overhaul of the facilities to comply with the “new normal” requirements, held three physical conferences in September: Biz Barcelona, the FHG (Food, Hospitality, and Gastronomic) Forum, and the Salo Ocupacio (Employment Fair). These conferences targeted mostly locals. Some talks were streamed online to grab a wider audience who could not or did not want to visit the conference halls.
Then suddenly, the second wave of Covid-19 hit again, forcing the regional and national governments to impose new restrictions. A new State of Emergency was recently declared by the Spanish government to provide the legal framework. The new conditions are forcing Fira Barcelona to cancel all plans to host physical shows for the rest of this year. The organization pushed some of them back to next year and created virtual editions for other events, trying to keep the conference business alive.
Next year, it is highly unlikely that the number of conference attendees will reach the levels of 2019. We’ll probably have to wait until 2022 or 2023 to get there.