While Bangladesh’s economic activities have resumed, global lockdowns are still very much in place. How is the global exhibition market fairing and how is this affecting Bangladesh’s exhibition market?
The Global Exhibition Industry is still crawling back to its feet. As we hear in some countries, the governments have allowed local exhibitions to be held. Even though the economic activities have resumed in Bangladesh, the government is still reluctant to allow an exhibition to take place owing to public gatherings. The exhibition industry of Bangladesh has taken a big hit due to the pandemic with all International Exhibitions postponed or canceled since February 2020. Eventually, we do hope that the government will lift the ban on organizing exhibitions and commence issuing visas to international business visitors soon. With restaurants, shopping malls, and cinema halls now fully open for public and mass Covid-19 Vaccinations being administered, we hope to be able to resume our exhibitions by the middle of this year. We have been in a tunnel for over a year but now we have our sights set on the light at the end of the tunnel and it’s growing brighter day by day.
What has been the response from the global exhibition market to the challenges brought on due to the novel virus?
What is an exhibition or a trade show? What do we do? We create important B2B platforms for buyers and sellers. In this span of almost 3 decades, CEMS-Global has partnered with several Business Associations, the Chamber of Commerce’s, Export Promotion Councils, International Trade Promotion organizations, Governments. Our successful 40 trade shows per annum in high potential and developing countries of the world across 4 continents have benefited hundreds of thousands of manufacturers, several industry sectors and boosted international trade and development in many countries. With the pandemic grinding international businesses, exhibitions, and travel to a halt; multinational exhibition organizers like us, Messe Frankfurt, etc had to scramble to adopt newer ways to create online B2B platforms to connect the worldwide buyers and suppliers. Our IT team worked for months to create a Virtual Online Exhibition platform where buyers would be able to network, chat, call, or video conference with suppliers. We held a Virtual Online B2B Exhibition in November 2020 which was a huge success. Going further with the experience gained by the online show, our IT team added more features and 3D technology to the online platform and we are once again organizing a Virtual Trade Show for the Textile Industry later this March 2021.
Are global exhibitions viable in the current global economic climate?
The global economic climate is carrying on contrary to the fears of a global economic downturn.
I saw a huge surge in electronic device sales in the last quarter of 2020. Black Friday sales in the U.S. crossed the previous year’s record. Christmas Season sales were high. Bangladesh RMG exports are up. The pharmaceutical and medical sectors have boomed. Some of the IT companies multiplied their billions. China’s 3rd and 4th quarter exports surged. In my view, I don’t see a problem with the global economic climate. Yes, there has been damage to some sectors including ours, but the economic climate has been good overall. Having said this, the best way to get International business jump-started again is `Exhibitions’!
How is CEMS-Global addressing exhibitors’ and patrons’ safety concerns in regards to upcoming exhibitions? Could you share some of the measures that are being implemented?
We are yet to receive a go-ahead and instructions on safety from the Government of Bangladesh on commencing to organize exhibitions. As I have said earlier, we believe we would be able to organize our Trade Shows by the middle of this year and we would be keeping in mind the safety aspect for everyone involved. Most of our exhibitions are B2B so I guess we won’t have trouble handling the visitors. This would mean we would implement strict restrictions on the number of people in a hall, assign time slots to visitors to visit the exhibition, and make masks, hand sanitizers mandatory.
According to you in your tenure as Group CEO, how do you envision the exhibition industry evolving?
Figures matter! The Global B2B Trade Show market is valued at US$34.4 Billion. By 2023, this figure is expected to surpass US$40 Billion. In the U.S. alone, over 10,000 Trade Shows are being held every year. An estimated 30,000 B2B Exhibitions are held each year all over the world. The importance of B2B Trade Shows/ Exhibitions is growing stronger each year as they have become an integral part of marketing where no other medium works as well as this with a direct eye to eye marketing with potential buyers. Trade worth billions of dollars is conducted through Trade Shows/ Exhibitions and has thus become the best medium for worldwide manufacturers to use as a platform for networking with buyers. The Exhibition Industry has been playing an increasingly significant role in the global economy in recent years. If every business could be done virtually, airlines would be flying empty and there would be no business travel. The Exhibition Industry also supports its Support Services and Tourism Industry. When we have our biggest Trade Shows in Bangladesh, almost all the hotels in Dhaka run at full capacity, airlines run full flying in and out of Dhaka, Restaurants are overbooked. So the exhibition industry also benefits other important sectors of the economy and brings in foreign exchange. The pandemic may have brought our exhibitions to a halt but has not dampened our vision or planning. Having our operations across four continents currently, we at CEMS-Global have been planning our future steps in identifying and making our forays into newer markets once everything is back to normal.