The global impact of the coronavirus outbreak reverberated around the world, taking a bigger than expected toll on European trade fairs.
First China cancelled all trade fairs in February and March, which led Hong Kong to do the same.
However unlike during previous health scares such as SARS or MERS, this time fairs in Europe felt the impact as many visitors chose to stay away. Constant media reports of people contracting the virus at large public gatherings discouraged companies from sending staff to events – even those far away from Asia.
Overall, organizers reported a 2-4 percent drop in visitors to February fairs.
Most buyers were eager to see the new developments for the season – and shows like Premiere Vision, Milano Unica and Munich Fabric Start are amongst the best places to find newness and innovation.
A big contingent that was visibly absent were Chinese buyers, who now represent important buyers as well as suppliers of fabrics.
Exhibitors remained optimistic that 2020 would ultimately turn out to be a successful year.
“No one knows for sure, but I think the situation will clear up soon. This can’t last forever,” said the representative of an Italian mill, asking to mention his name.
Others agreed. The general outlook was that once the virus had peaked, business would pick up and that there might even be a surge in orders.
Many people also noted that the virus outbreak came during Chinese New Year, a time when business is traditionally slow.
However, others were not as upbeat.
“We had hoped that 2020 would be a good year. But now we feel that we will have to wait until next year, or maybe at least until next season, for business to improve,” said a Turkish mill.