Two of the most important events in this year's newsmedia calendar - INMA's World Congress in Paris and the giant DRUPA printing trade show in Düsseldorf - have been cancelled overnight.
INMA's major event - which was to have been held from April 23-28 - will be moved to a new date in May 2021, while DRUPA has also been "postponed" to April 20-30, 2021.
DRUPA was to be have been held from June 16-26 this year, overlapping WAN-Ifra's 72nd World News Media Congress, which is at the time of writing, still scheduled for June 17-19 in Zaragoza, Spain.
WAN-Ifra says it is continuing to "plan optimistically" with "no intention, at this point" to postpone the Congress. Exhibitors and attendees are continuing to register and plan for the event, but "the health of our visitors, staff and the citizens of Zaragoza is of primary concern".
The same considerations have driven the decisions of INMA and DRUPA organisers. "Our overriding priority is the health, safety and well-being of our participants," INMA executive director and chief executive Earl Wilkinson said in a statement on Saturday. "Participants cannot realistically travel from their home countries to Paris. And the ramifications of the pandemic in Paris have turned the situation in the city problematic."
A consideration will be the US government's ban on travel to the country from mainland Europe. The Louvre, which was to be the venue for an opening reception, has already closed (and reopened) because of the virus.
Two years of preparation have gone into the Congress - was to have been held at Palais Brongniart - at which nearly 600 participants from more than 50 countries were expected, along with workshops and a study tour of Parisian media houses.
Winners of the INMA Global Media Awards will now be announced via livestream video on or around April 28, and planning has begun for a virtual World Congress to Paris participants in April/May, and the next "in-person" World Congress in New York in May 2021.
"We are fortunate to have a strong foundation as an association, a robust virtual training environment for members, and amazing conference experiences planned for the second half of the year in Dublin, New Delhi, Lima and Los Angeles," says Wilkinson.
DRUPA organisers Messe Düsseldorf say they are following the recommendation of the crisis management team of the German federal government and their advisors - basically to slow the spread of the virus "as far as possible" - following the "recent significant increase" in the number of people infected. The city council has also prohibited major events with more than 1000 participants present at the same time.
Management board chairman Werner Dornscheidt says the decision also reflects the wishes of individual industries. "As their partner, we are currently doing everything in our power to reduce the economic losses suffered by our exhibitors".
Measures to reduce the risk of transmission at the event were deemed "practically impossible to implement" and "unreasonable".
DRUPA president Claus Bolza-Schünemann says a postponement was unavoidable, and the decision gives exhibitors the opportunity to "react, reschedule and prepare" for the event date in April 2021.
"The excitement for 'embrace the future' remains undiminished - also in 2021," he says.
Most exhibitors and visitors will already have booked hotel accommodation - which has a reputation for an exponential increase in cost during DRUPA weeks - and the Düsseldorf hotel industry's DEHOGA trade association is appealing for flexibility in rebooking. "It would be counterproductive not to show goodwill in this situation," Giuseppe Saitta and Rolf Steinert of the Düsseldorf/Rhein-Kreis Neuss district hotels and tourism groups say.
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