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HP not exhibiting at drupa 2021?

Digital printing giant HP, which had planned to take the entire hall 17 again at the Messe Düsseldorf, appears to have joined a growing list of major exhibitors to withdraw from the April 2021 global print expo because of concerns about Covid-19.

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HP's amazing exhibit, taking all of Hall 17 - 8,298m2 - at drupa 2016. Not to be for 2021?

Yet to be confirmed by Messe Düsseldorf, organisers of drupa 2021, HP is reported to be out of drupa 2021 as the trade fair's largest exhibitor. A search of the exhibitor list of drupa shows HP Germany as partaking in two 'Touchpoint' demonstrations on small stands in the packaging and textile areas of Halls 3 and 4, but no main presence in HP's customary Hall 17 - an entire Hall for the print and tech giant. Hall 17 does not now appear in drupa's listings when searching for HP.

In a statement to UK trade publication Printweek, HP said: “In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the health and safety of our employees and customers remains our highest priority and therefore HP will not have a physical presence at Interpack and Drupa 2021.”

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Social distancing is not easy at a drupa

Drupa's largest exhibitor joins high profile print companies including Heidelberg, Fujifilm, Xerox, Komori, Kodak, Screen, Bobst and Manroland in cancelling their participation in the event - rescheduled from 2020 and trimmed in length to nine days (April 20 – 28, 2021)

Landa, Koenig & Bauer, Kurz and many other German and Chinese companies have confirmed their intention to attend the show. In fact, a look at the 'H' alphabetical exhibitor listing shows no fewer than 14 companies begining with 'Huangxing..'

In a LinkedIn post, Francois Martin, former head of global marketing at HP’s graphics solutions division, said: “We all would have loved to attend Drupa 2020 but the world has changed. Until we have the Covid-19 eradicated, we need to adjust to a new reality.

“The challenge is to change habits and to accept the current world and the consequences. Nothing against any trade fair but the need to be realistic. The next real and true Drupa will be in 2024. Anything before remains at risk. Vaccine will take time.”

In March 2020, as COVID-19 began to spread across Europe, the drupa show scheduled for 16-26 June 2020 was postponed to April 2021, following a recommendation by the German Federal Government. In July, organisers Messe Düsseldorf trimmed the length of the rescheduled trade fair from eleven to nine days, from April 20-28, 2021

Earlier this month, drupa said it was launching a new online platform to offer exhibitors and visitors “an additional channel for touching base with the sector, discussing trending themes and presenting product portfolios.” 

Drupa veteran Andy McCourt comments

Jo Francis' Printweek report in the UK appears to be on the money. Corroborated by the absence of any major listing on the drupa website, HP looks like it will not exhibit - for 2021 at least. HP may possibly look at drupa's virtual online show about to be launched but the sad reality is that Europe - not just Germany - will be in no position to host around 300,000 visitors in April 2021, due to a worsening Covid-19 second wave. Even if the pandemic situation improves by April, international visitors and exhibitors may not have easy access to European air travel in 7 months time, and there still may be 'hot spots' of infection barring people from travelling from certain countries.

India, for example, is a vital market for drupa exhibitors as it modernises its printing, packaging and textile industries. The pandemic is taking a terrible toll on the sub-continent with no predictable end in sight. Our hearts go out to the Indian industry and society in general. Brazil, another booming market, is in a not dissimilar situation.

In our Oceania region, Australian and New Zealand air carriers have indicated long-haul travel is unlikely to resume before June 2021 - two months after drupa.

Without the largest offset press and the largest digital press manufacturers, plus several others, can there be a drupa worthy of its great name? Regrettably, I think not because, as Ipex UK demonstrated, a trade fair is not bigger than the sum of its parts, no matter how much enthusiasm and marketing you throw at it. Fespa Amsterdam, scheduled for March 2021 should also take note.

None of this is drupa's fault, the show is a faithful and excellent servant of our industries. However, just as the physical body needs a period of convalescence after a serious illness, so does an industry trade event. Trade fairs succeed on the very stimulus that Covid-19 has taken away: the ability to socialise and do business in proximity with one another.

It could be 2022 or it could be 2024 as Francois Martin advocates; either way major international trade fairs and other major events can not expect to succeed and attract crowds until we can once again associate closely and travel freely, in a healthy and safe manner. May that day arrive as soon as possible.