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ISE weathers the storms

ISE weathers the storms

ISE weathers the storms

As the curtain is set to come down on the 15th and final edition of ISE in Amsterdam next Friday, it appears highly likely that the successful exhibition may be bowing out in uncharacteristic style. Before an attendee has registered at the RAI, the outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has already made its impact felt as exhibitors and visitors alike cancel their travel plans in fear of the growing worldwide pandemic.

A pivotal watershed was breached on 5 February following the announcement by LG to cancel its preparations for ISE. LG claims the decision was made for the safety of its employees and the general public, in order to prevent needlessly exposing hundreds of their employees to international travel. Largely precipitated in its own run-up to Mobile World Congress (MWC) that will be staged in the Fira de Barcelona later this month, the decision was not taken lightly. The organisers and the city are expecting some 100,000 attendees to descend upon the Catalan capital and naturally have a lot to lose if a trickle of no-shows suddenly becomes a stampede. But as the number of ‘officially’ confirmed cases exceeds 30,000 people with no sign of it abating, MWC has a fight on its hands to reassure visitors and exhibitors alike that it’ll be business as usual in Barcelona. That’s understandable as MWC is forecast to generate €492 million this year in addition to 14,100 part-time jobs (GSMA).

Similarly, the LG announcement provoked the ISE organisers into making a hasty statement in mitigation. Located towards the entrance of Hall 12 and occupying roughly 10% of the floor space in that cavernous hall, LG’s absence will be immense. Contrasting markedly with every sold-out booth across the RAI, booth 12-K90 is now shaded red – like a virus itself – on the ISE website.

‘For the past 16 years, the show’s co-owners AVIXA and CEDIA have been committed to delivering an event that benefits the global audiovisual industry,’ read the statement. ‘ISE has always perceived itself as the steward of this event – a place and time for the industry to come together and grow together. We reaffirm and continue that commitment for our last time in Amsterdam. Our determination to proceed with the event has been made with consideration to current guidelines provided by public health authorities including that of the World Health Organization (WHO). We understand and support that our exhibiting partners will make decisions based on the best course of action for their employees and customers and that this situation requires all of us to make informed decisions with the most up-to-date information possible.’

Amounting to just under 20% of the total booth space at ISE, Chinese exhibitors are having to make alternative plans with global travel restrictions now in place. Having exhibited at ISE from the outset, Taiden will be sitting out ISE 2020 in Shenzhen. Frustrating perhaps, but, with a European team to fall back on, all is not lost.

‘Taiden fully supports the World Health Organization suggestion of not restricting trade or movement. However, our ISE presence will be maintained by drawing upon our French office staff in addition to our European distributors,’ commented Taiden overseas marketing director, Vica Huang. ‘It is a tough decision to make since Taiden has always seen at ISE as the most important show of the year. But we totally understand that potential concerns may be caused with the presence of our China-based staff at the booth. So, as much we value ISE, we want to guarantee a stress-free experience for the show attendees. While we regret that our Chinese-based staff will miss the opportunity to meet our partners and visitors in person, we are still very fortunate that our French office can assist us. The health crisis will not hamper the worldwide debut of our new products, including a brand-new Paperless Multimedia Congress Terminal HCS-8668, in addition to the upgraded units designed for the HCS-8600, 5300 and 5100 systems.

Prior to the Taiden announcement, Magewell made a similar statement that it would not be sending its Chinese personnel to Amsterdam. It will be business as usual on booth 8-G475 as the respected AV hardware and software producer is drawing upon European and North American representatives.

‘We understand the potential concerns of ISE attendees, and want them to be able to experience the benefits of our solutions without any worries,’ commented Magewell CEO and CTO, Nick Ma. ‘Combining that with an abundance of caution, we are choosing not to send anyone from China to the show. Fortunately, we have trusted channel partners we can rely on for our booth presence, so Magewell will still exhibit at ISE. We regret not being able to meet directly with attendees and partners ourselves in person, but we trust our regional representatives to provide visitors with the answers they need.’

While the positive spin has stopped other red blotches spreading across the RAI, the visitor numbers will be affected as consultants such as Arup in Australia confined their registered employees to base. The ISE organisers remain optimistic, however. ‘The number of attendees that will come to the show is always the subject of much discussion and speculation,’ countered an ISE spokesman. ‘Today, visitor registration is ahead of the same point in time in 2019. While it isn’t fair to suggest that they will all translate into actual attendees, registration numbers have always been an accurate forecast for us as we’ve planned the show’s logistics.’

As yet, no cases of the SARS-like virus have been confirmed in Benelux. However, the Singapore Ministry of Health (MOH) activated a Code Orange alert because of a ‘heightened risk’, with the disclosure that four cases of infection had no known links to China or people already infected. It is only the second time Singapore has activated Code Orange as the disease is seen to be spreading within the community.

As the RAI transforms itself for its ISE finale, the show most definitely goes on. Without having to gaze into a crystal ball, the 2020 edition will be characterised by Japanese-style head bows, long queues to the rest room facilities, facial masks and social distancing. Impersonal perhaps, but if you were not a fan of man hugs and over sentimentality, this show could be for you. The February show dates at the height of the Dutch mid-winter coincides with germs, flu viruses and running noses – so pity anyone who happens to develop the common cold at this exhibition. And while the media has been perceived by some to have over-reacted to 2019-nCoV, simple precautions will ensure that no one need leave Amsterdam with anything more than a common cold and a clutch of business cards.

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