Industry voices opinion on trade show attendance

By Charlotte Turner |

Corona-Virus-2020-mainOver a 24-hour period TRBusiness conducted an independent survey to canvas the opinion of travel retail stakeholders on whether two of the industry’s biggest trade fairs, Summit of the Americas and the TFWA Asia Pacific Exhibition & Conference, should go ahead as planned despite the outbreak of Covid-19.


As reported, the Summit of the Americas event has been cancelled. For more details click here.


Asked whether the TFWA Exhibition should go ahead as planned on 10-14 May in Singapore, 50.21% of respondents said ‘yes’ while 49.79% said ‘no’. In a follow-up question, TRBusiness asked ‘if the TFWA Asia Pacific Exhibition & Conference goes ahead, will you attend?’. The percentage of those voting in favour increased to 60.35% (39.65% against).


Whilst these figures provide an accurate barometer for the mood of the industry, TRBusiness felt it was imperative to uncover how the enforcement of travel restrictions – by individual companies – was impacting our respondents’ decisions to attend the events in question.



Of those who have no travel restrictions imposed, a much higher 70.55% said they thought that the TFWA Asia Pacific event should continue as planned (29.45% voted against). The percentage in favour of attending the show (should it go ahead as planned) rose even higher to 80.71% amongst those who have no travel restrictions.


Covid-19 survey TFWA chart 1

This chart includes all respondents, including those who have travel restrictions imposed.

The same set of questions were asked of the Summit of the Americas event, which was due to take place 30 March-2 April.


Taking all respondents into consideration (those with travel restrictions as well as those without) 63.43% voted that the SOA should have gone ahead while 36.57% voted against. Of those who have no travel restrictions in place, the percentage of those in favour of the show going ahead rose to 85.22%, while 14.78% were against.


If the Summit of the Americas had gone ahead, 60.74% of all respondents said they would have attended. This percentage was understandably a lot higher at 81.31% among those with no travel restrictions.

Covid-19 survey TFWA chart 3

Almost 71% of respondents who have no travel restrictions imposed upon them say the TFWA Asia Pacific show should continue as planned.


TRBusiness was furnished with more detailed insight on the industry’s current mood through reams of comments submitted by our respondents. Whilst there were far too many to list here, we are able to provide a cross-section of opinions.



While some suggested that ‘all conferences should go on as normal’ and that we should not panic or make knee-jerk decisions, others had reservations.


“Given the impact to both suppliers and retailers, most specifically at the moment in Asia, it feels we should be tightening our belts a little and focusing on recovery. Whilst the Singapore show is always an important one, it feels to me, at this point in time, it is too risky to go ahead, both commercially and for the health risks associated.”

Covid-19 survey TFWA chart 2

This graph is representative of all respondents, including those with travel restrictions imposed.

However, some of those closest to the worst affected areas were keen to see a de-escalation. “Currently travelling in Asia (apart from HK and China), as business still goes on despite a large slowdown,” said one respondent.


Another claimed that the situation was being ‘over-hyped’ through informal news sources and social media platforms, which are ‘full of fake news’.



One respondent suggested that it was still too early for the TFWA to make a decision on the Asia event either way.


“For TFWA it’s too early to decide to proceed or cancel. Hopefully the virus will be contained by that time. [We should wait] a minimum of two weeks or more although I appreciate it is late [to let people know] at that time. However, currently events are cancelled a few days before or even during.”


Covid-19 survey TFWA chart 4

Eighty percent (no travel restrictions) said they will attend the TFWA show if it goes ahead.

Responding to questions about the Summit of the Americas just hours before an announcement was made to cancel it, one respondent relayed their concerns.


“The (US) Government is not sure what they are yet dealing with; the risks are high. It stated that warm weather would kill the virus. It seems not so as Florida and Texas (both warm climates) and California also a warm climate have not affected the virus. It’s time to let people cancel and get their money back before it’s too late.”


While there were others who disagreed. “No excuse to cancel Orlando show this will all move on and we will look back and realise the media has over-hyped this whole unfortunate event.”

Covid-19 SOA survey chart 2

This question was asked of our respondents just hours before the Summit of the Americas show was cancelled.



Others believed that the risks involved in domestic travel were just as high as in international travel. “I’m just as likely to contract Covid-19 in a supermarket in the UK as I am at a trade show in Singapore.”


“I think this is being taken out of context,” said another. “Airports are still operating; I think staff working at airports are more at risk than people attending the conferences.”


Others are attempting to find clarity on the rapidly evolving situation through statistics.


“Whilst I appreciate that Covid-19 presents a health threat and should be taken seriously, we have to take everything into perspective. This is not the killer that SARS or MERS was. Unlike the time when SARS was a threat, we now live in a world greatly influenced by social media sending out fake news that is taking control of our thinking, influencing our lives, businesses and even our stock markets.”


“We must keep everything in perspective. I have more chance of winning the Lottery than contracting and dying of Covid-19. Influenza kills over 500,000 people every year worldwide, we don’t cancel our trade exhibitions because of the flu virus so why cancel them for Covid-19? If our industry is to survive and thrive we must move forward.”


In the below video, an experienced cross-section of travel bloggers from across the globe spoke to TRBusiness frankly and dispassionately about the ongoing impacts of the coronavirus outbreak (Covid-19) and what it means for their travel plans.



Some revealed that they had already taken measures to mitigate the threat of catching the virus.


“Will still undertake business travel for meeting etc to ‘lower risk’ countries/areas, but will be cancelling attendance at large conferences until further notice. Hopefully business as usual soon; I intend to go to postponed events if at all possible.”



TRBusiness conducted a 24-hour survey beginning on Monday 2 March and concluding at the same time on Tuesday 3 March. The survey was completed by 262 members of the duty free & travel retail industry. The details of the respondents and their comments shall remain anonymous.


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