LEE-ANN ALDER Once the first few events and exhibitions have taken place, and people see the safety of having exhibitions and events, we are certain that other companies wishing to organise events and exhibitions this year will follow
Through open communication and innovation with industry role-players – such as organisers, government departments and other associations – nonprofit organisation Exhibition and Event Association of Southern Africa (EXSA) believes the events and exhibitions industry can be reignited this year.
EXSA GM Lee-Ann Alder says EXSA does not foresee that all events and exhibitions will open immediately, but she does foresee hybrid events becoming the norm for a while, as some people will prefer virtual events to in-person interactions.
“Once the first few events and exhibitions have taken place, and people see the safety of having exhibitions and events, we are certain that other companies wishing to organise events and exhibitions this year will follow.”
Although there is an optimistic outlook, there are some challenges that still loom over the events industry such as the threat of government closing the industry again, says Alder.
However, she explains that the industry has proven that it can host big events and exhibitions safely by ensuring that it adheres to all safety protocols on site.
The second challenge is the supply of goods. Owing to overseas bans, certain stock, such as timber, aluminium, lights and timber glue, cannot be delivered to South Africa. “While most countries have lifted the ban of exports to South Africa now, this could change in a heartbeat due to the Covid-19 spread, a new variant or another wave,” says Alder.
“This means we could have a shortage of stock if everything opens quickly.”
The third challenge is the vaccine debate, adds Alder. “Many events will implement mandatory vaccine certificates to enter or work at the event.”
This is a challenge owing to the fact that it is not mandatory in South Africa to be vaccinated. Those who are not vaccinated will not be able to attend and this could affect numbers and potential income as well as travel into South Africa which will have a knock-on-effect on tourism and all its subcategories, she adds.
Despite these challenges, she says there is opportunity for growth in the industry.
The first prospect lies in retaining skills and knowledge. There have been many company closures or companies that no longer have a staff base and have become sole proprietors that do all aspects of the job themselves, and as a way of keeping people who are working on their own in the industry fold, EXSA introduced individual membership.
This enables sole proprietors to be EXSA members and enjoy all the benefits at an affordable price.
“Many of these individuals have been members for years and, in fact, some were founding EXSA members,” Alder adds.
She adds that the skills and knowledge retained in the organisation will be passed on to the new generation who will eventually replace them, but that “without this knowledge now, there will be a huge gap in the industry”.
Therefore, EXSA’s focus this year is to rebuild the organisation and it is planning to collaborate with organisers and venue owners to ensure that it and the industry works together to make a success of events and exhibitions.