The show had originally been scheduled to take place in Madrid earlier this year, but, as a result of the coronavirus crisis and the resulting lockdowns, was rescheduled to October 2020 and slimmed down to three days.
However, Fespa has now effectively cancelled its 2020 event and brought forward the 2021 show, which had initially been penciled in for Munich in May 2021, avoiding a clash with next year’s rescheduled Drupa.
The four-day 2021 Global Print Expo, which is co-located with European Sign Expo and Sportswear Pro, will now take place at the RAI Exhibition Centre in Amsterdam on 9-12 March. Munich will instead host the 2022 event.
Fespa CEO Neil Felton said that since initially pushing the March Madrid event back six months, the development of Covid-19 had been "dynamic and unpredictable" and while he acknowledged that many regions were emerging from lockdown the decision was taken that October was too soon.
“We have a really strong stakeholder network out there, through our 37 associations, which can tell us what the market is thinking, and in addition we’ve also spoken to all our leading exhibitors… everybody wanted us to have a show, because they want to sell,” said Felton.
“But what they also wanted was the visitors there and our biggest concern was were we going to get a truly international audience in October. Because if we can’t deliver a Fespa [exhibitor] experience, we can’t run a Fespa show.”
Felton also said that the cancelling the show had cost Fespa money.
“But us making a decision early has cost us less, and more importantly, cost our exhibitors less.
“At the end of the day we wanted to make the decision as quickly as possible and the response from exhibitors about Amsterdam has been phenomenal because they want to start selling stuff.”
The Amsterdam RAI has played host to several Fespas, most recently in the 2016 Drupa year when the show attracted more than 16,000 unique visitors and 450 exhibitors. Felton said Amsterdam was consistently in the “top two” host cities in its research.
“It’s very easy to get to, it’s a great place to go, has a fantastic network of printers and sign shops and it’s close to Germany and Belgium and other areas, you can drive to it from the UK.”
Felton said he had been “heartened by the support from exhibitors and Fespa associations” and he added that the majority of exhibitors spoken to so far are simply transferring their 2020 Madrid bookings to the 2021 Amsterdam event.
In terms of whether March was possibly too soon, Felton said he was as confident as he possibly could be.
"In my 25-year career I’ve never cancelled a show, and now I’ve just cancelled two. It’s not ideal, but the positivity out of it is let’s start 2021 as a new year, a fantastic venue and the support of the industry.
“We’re driven by what our market is saying, and they tell us that they need Fespa to kick-start a lot of activity in the market. So, they want it to be as early and as safe as is possible. Nobody can say exactly what is going to happen, but our market is very keen to get going as soon as possible, because they need the market to start rebuilding again.”