The Irish Exhibition Organisers Association (IEOA) said that for September and October alone, more than 3,000 small businesses are already booked to exhibit at IEOA member events.
Currently phase four of the government's roadmap for reopening Ireland's economy allows for gatherings of up to 100 people indoors – but this number isn’t viable for trade fairs which are held in huge venues such as The RDS in Dublin.
Garret Buckley, Chair, IEOA and Managing Director of EventHaus said that collectively, their trade fairs and exhibitions are responsible for generating millions of euro in sales for exhibitors, many of which are small Irish businesses who depend on our events for sales.
“Our events are essentially ‘marketplaces’ and they will provide SMEs with a valuable opportunity to stimulate their sales in the post-lockdown era.”
The IEOA is calling for clarity from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation which will enable the sector to plan for its safe re-opening.
The association has already published its own roadmap for members, which includes guidelines and protocols which have been circulated to the Department of Business and to the Health & Safety Authority.
“With all exhibitions and trade fairs cancelled since mid-March, we now need certainty to facilitate planning for our Autumn events. We are confident that our proposed protocols will enable our events to operate safely, fully adhering to Government guidelines on social distancing.”
Bernadette Kennelly who operates a wedding cake business in Navan said events such as wedding fairs are a crucial opportunity to secure essential sales for the remainder of the year and the following year.
"I have exhibited at the Wedding & Honeymoon Show for 15 years, and as a small, cake-making business, without this show my business has no profile, voice or representation in the wedding industry,” she said.
The IEOA said that many European countries, including France, Germany and Switzerland, have recognised the importance the trade fairs and exhibitions to the overall economy, confirming that exhibitions can take place from September 1.
Recognising that the Government is working through the phases, the IEOA is calling for action now as timing is crucial in the planning of events, with minimum lead times at two months but in most occasions is much longer. “It goes without saying that the health and safety of our employees, exhibitors and visitors is our number one priority, and our robust guidelines clearly show how smaller, niche events can run smoothly in a safe manner,” says Garret.
In addition to delivering business for exhibitors, many other contractors, such as venues, stand-construction, catering, lighting, cleaning, and security businesses, depend on income from trade fairs and exhibitions.
Michael Duffy, Chief Executive of The RDS adds: “Large venues throughout Ireland have the capacity, resources and professional expertise in 'people movement' to assist event organisers hold trade fairs & exhibitions in a safe and responsible way, adhering to Government guidelines.
“The lead-in times for exhibitions and trade fairs are typically six months or more, with many people involved. Quarter four is always the busiest time of year for such events, with many SMEs receiving bookings or orders for the following year - never more vital than in these times. Those involved in events September and October need time and some level of certainty and clarity on future guidelines in order to prepare for these events now.”