Exhibitions in 2020 and 2021: traditions and innovations

№ 1, 2021

Job title: директор выставочного унитарного предприятия «Белинтерэкспо» БелТПП

Despite the difficulties all exhibition events organizers faced in 2020, the Unitary Enterprise "Belinterexpo" of the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is optimistic about the future development of the exhibition industry. In the situation of the restrictions caused by the epidemiological situation, the company has successfully tested a new – virtual – format of exhibitions and pavilions, which has proven to be quite effective. The company's plans for the next year include a significant number of events: on online platforms and at traditional exhibition halls in different countries of the world. The exhibitions will allow Belarusian companies to showcase their products, establish contacts with representatives of foreign businesses and conclude profitable cooperation agreements and contracts.


2020: challenges and new formats

In 2020, the global events industry, including the exhibition industry, was facing an emergency of unprecedented scale. Since March, most exhibitions around the world were cancelled or postponed, and this trend continued until the end of the year – in fact, the exhibition industry has not fully recovered.

With the beginning of the pandemic, various virtual exhibitions began to appear actively. Some of them were simple online directories. Others had more complex functionality: virtual stands, systems for visitors registering and tracking, direct communication tools.

Realizing that interactivity, the ability to communicate with a potential partner is the main function of any international exhibition, ­Belinterexpo was one of the first in the CIS to hold a full-fledged virtual exhibition, Made in Belarus Agrofood, in June. It opened a series of online events dedicated to various industries and aimed at presenting Belarusian products and services to business circles in different regions of the world. Two more events – the TeMEx industrial exhibition with the participation of 70 companies from eight countries, as well as the National Exposition of Belarus timed to the third China International Import Expo – were launched in ­October and November. They were supposed to run until mid-January, but it was decided to extend their work to demonstrate Belarusian products to a larger number of interested parties and potential partners.

Virtual expositions in their content were similar to classic exhibitions: they had a registration area, a pavi­lion, stands... Even opening ceremonies were held with a traditional red ribbon. More than five thousand businessmen from 70 countries of the world visited the exhibitions. Taking into account the experience gained, Belinterexpo is planning new large-scale online events in 2021.

During the pandemic, there was a lot of talk that traditional exhibitions would lose their significance, completely move digital. But we see that this is not true due to the significant interest of businesses in resuming exhibition activities. The basis of business is trust, and it is difficult to achieve it through communication on the Internet. Therefore, online events are important to remind of yourself and new products, to establish new contacts in a period of restrictions, but for real business communication, classic exhibitions are undoubtedly more effective. And such exhibitions are gradually returning.

At the end of the year, truly international exhibitions were held in Russia, China, the UAE and Egypt. These countries, with a number of restrictions and conditions, allowed the entry of foreign guests. Taking advantage of this opportunity, Belinterexpo organized two Belarusian expositions in the traditional format – at the Peterfood exhibition in Saint Petersburg and at Cairo ICT international expo and forum in Egypt.

Within the framework of the Belarusian exposition at Peterfood international food exhibition (November 17–19), the largest Belarusian baking industry enterprise "Minskkhlebprom" presented to Russian partners more than 40 food novelties – bakery and confectionery products, snacks.

The Made in Belarus pavilion of Belarusian manufacturers, which was presented at Cairo ICT international expo and forum of telecommunication and information technologies from November 22 to 25, demonstrated advanced technologies in the fields of medicine, engineering and programming, information security, transport automation, developed by subordinate enterprises and organizations of the National Academy of Sciences of ­Belarus and the Ministry of Education of the ­Republic of Belarus.

During the organization of these events, Belinterexpo specialists faced additional organizational difficulties. The first one concerned transport: there are less flights, and tickets have become more expensive. Secondly, most countries require negative PCR COVID-19 test upon entry. In addition, it should be noted that strict precautions have been taken at most of the exhibitions currently held abroad.

Despite these and other difficulties, all issues were successfully resolved, and the experience gained will be used in organizing future foreign expositions.


2021: plans and prospects

The situation with the possibility of visiting foreign countries is constantly and unpredictably changing depending on the epidemiological situation. The organization of any exhibition turns into a kind of a quest: one can make an advance payment for the area, stand and hotel, and face the situation when the event is cancelled. Therefore, now it is especially convenient to work with a single organizer, such as Belinterexpo, which constantly monitors the situation and comprehensively solves all technical issues.

The Belinterexpo calendar for 2021 includes 85 exhibitions in 40 countries. This is twice as much as we arranged in 2019. More exhibitions have been worked out, taking into account possible postponements or closures of borders. The calendar covers most of the CIS countries, the countries of Western and South-Eastern Europe, the largest markets in the Asia Region, a number of countries in Africa and America. In addition, it is planned to participate in thematic exhibition events for industrial and mechanical engineering enterprises, food manufacturers and companies from other sectors of the economy. The calendar will be constantly updated and adjusted depending on how the situation develops.

Traditionally, for the fifth year in a row, the Belarusian exposition will be organized at Gulfood exhibition in the UAE. This is the largest annual food exhibition in the world to be held in February in Dubai.

A number of food exhibitions will be held in China – at the country's largest food industry exhibition SIAL, the fourth China Import Expo and Anufood exhibition in Beijing.

Belarusian expositions of agricultural machinery, fertilizers and food products are planned at agricultural exhibitions in traditional partner countries: Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan (in Nur-Sultan and Almaty), Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, and Russia.

Among the interesting novelties for food producers are specialized exhibitions in Denmark, Japan, Vietnam, the United States, Canada, Qatar, Oman, Poland, Indonesia, Israel, and other countries.

Engineering enterprises, manufactu­rers of equipment and industrial products, petrochemical industry companies, research organizations and IT companies are invited to participate in exhibitions in Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Germany, Finland, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria, Syria, Brazil, Cuba, Angola, and the UAE.

A number of exhibitions in the CIS countries will have an expanded format of an export mission. This format assumes that participants leave a few days earlier to learn more about the trade and industrial potential of the country, visit manufacturing enterprises, hold meetings and consultations with representatives of local business, embassy staff, business unions, and take part in information seminars.

Of particular note should be major events from the series of large-scale Made in Belarus exhibitions. In 2021, they are planned in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia. Each exhibition will traditionally be accompanied by a massive advertising campaign, a number of professional business events. The highlight of the year will be that each exhibition will be supported by a full-fledged online exhibition, a kind of a mirror of the event on the Internet, which will allow visiting the exhibition by those who can not physically do it.

Additional opportunities are opened for enterprises at the events of the Plan of National Exhibitions and Pavilions: the construction exhibition in the UK, Anuga food exhibition in Germany, a major exhibition in Zimbabwe, a pavilion at the engineering and technology exhibition "Innoprom" in Russia, and others. The special advantage of these events is that participants are guaranteed state support in accordance with the Decree of the President of the Republic of Belarus dated November 14, 2019 No. 412.

In conclusion, I would like to note that Belinterexpo is a team of exhibition professionals who effectively solve problems and help Belarusian enterprises get the maximum result from the participation in key exhibitions around the world. We have always been and will be with Belarusian businesses anywhere in the world, working for their success.