The Exhibition Industry Vs COVID-19: Problems, Challenges and Solutions

Economic Crisis due to Coronavirus

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has heavily impacted the exhibition industry in India. It has suffered an estimated loss of Rs 3,570 crore due to the lockdown imposed as per IEIA President S Balasubramanian. All the tradeshows have been canceled or postponed with the uncertainty of happening in the latter half of 2020. But, the trade fair industry is resilient. So, here are 5 ways in which the exhibition industry can tackle the impact of COVID-19.

1. E-commerce

The trade show industry supports and helps grow various small-scale industries that exhibit at the trade fairs. Exhibitions play a major role in enabling trade for these small businesses and help them reach a larger audience. With social distancing norms in place, the organizers can move to the virtual world to sell these products. The organizers can come up with a model similar to e-commerce to sell their products or tie-up with the existing service providers.

2. Government

The Indian Exhibitions Industry Association (IEIA), which is the apex body of the exhibiting and trade show industry has urged the government to create an “Exhibitions in India” economic stimulus support package. The government should give a 10% incentive to the Indian trade fair management companies to organize shows. This will help them to recover from the heavy losses incurred during this pandemic. 

The government should also reduce GST rates for all trade show services from the existing 18% to 12%. GST and income tax should be deferred for 6 to 9 months and the venue rentals for government-owned venues should be subsidized. Assistance from the government will go a long way in helping the industry recover from the losses.

3. Digital Marketing

The lockdown has caused the masses to stay indoors. This has caused a huge spike in the usage of digital platforms. The organizers must make sure to keep their customers engaged through blogs, videos, or social media where they can share updates about their strategies to tackle the crisis or ask them to suggest something.

The monetary loss incurred is definitely irreversible but the loss of engagement of customers would be irreplaceable. If a strategy is employed to sell products online or trade fairs are allowed with restrictions, digital marketing will play a key role.

4. Health and Safety

The COVID-19 pandemic has dismantled the healthcare infrastructure of many countries across the globe. If trade shows are allowed post-lockdown, it is paramount to take the necessary precautions to prevent any community spreading of the virus.

Manual tasks like ticketing, payment of money, and product booking should be done virtually to avoid human contact. Hand sanitizers should be readily available. Only a certain amount of people must be allowed to enter the trade fair to avoid mass gatherings.

There are many more factors that will be involved in the health & safety checklist. But, the exhibition industry has to be instrumental in demonstrating that with the help of technology and strategic planning we can have human interaction at the same time maintain all the safety norms.

5. Virtual Exhibition

Trade fairs fundamentally are events at which businesses promote their products and services. If the visitors like the products they can buy them. With social distancing and restrictions on mass gatherings, virtual exhibitions can be organized. The best way to organize it in the most cost-effective way would be through social media. 

Organizers can have a series of different segments of products with their photos, video descriptions, and all the required details on their social media handles. Visitors can select the products that they like and book those products. This will encourage the online engagement of customers, minimizing human contact. The organizers can then arrange for home delivery of the products.

A virtual exhibition may not be that effective but during times like these, we have to make the most of what we can!  

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