Trade fair organisers welcome events industry reopening

Ljubljana/Celje/Gornja Radgona – Slovenia’s major trade fair organisers are happy the government has reopened the events industry and are busy preparing their annual trade fairs to be held in late summer or early autumn, hoping the existing coronavirus restrictions will be further relaxed by then. A ban on fairs and conventions had been in place for over a year until 24 May.

Gospodarsko Razstavišče, the company running Ljubljana’s convention centre of the same name, organised the last fair in March 2020, but had to close it earlier as the coronavirus restrictions kicked in with the outbreak of the epidemic, its director Iztok Bricl has told the STA.

The company was able to host some business, such as meetings of shareholders or political events, while the Ljubljana Community Health Centre has been using Gospodarsko Razstavišče as its Covid-19 vaccination and testing centre. The Ljubljana Local Court has meanwhile rented some of the company’ premises.

Gospodarsko Razstavišče received state subsidies to cope with the industry closure, but since they covered less than a third of all fixed costs, it finished 2020 in the red, just as it did the first quarter of 2021. Bricl says this has forced them to cut the number of employees by 30%.

With the May relaxation of the events industry, the government capped the number of people indoors at 50% sitting capacity and ordered a 1.5-metre physical distance. But Bricl is worried about visitors having to prove they have been vaccinated, tested or recovered from Covid-19, a condition which is not needed to go shopping.

Similarly, Celjski Sejem, which runs the fairgrounds in the city of Celje, is happy with the industry’s reopening and busy working on what will be its first event this year, the 53rd International Trade Fair in mid September.

A closure of more than a year has affected the company, which finished 2020 with a loss of EUR 677,000, after it had to cancel ten fairs, all expect Agritech, while its convention segment was also severely affected, says marketing director Špela Terglav.

“With the Celje Trade Fair yet to be held, it’s too early to speak about this year’s loss, but there is no doubt about it. Despite the hard times, we are now focussing on future events,” she says.

While Celjski Sejem laid off some employees last year, the trend has not continued into 2021, and although some employees are on a furlough scheme and others working half time, they are now slowing getting back to normal.

Pomurski Sejem from the town of Gornja Radgona is meanwhile fully busy preparing its flagship Agra, the 59th international agriculture and food fair scheduled for late August.

The company’s chairman Janez Erjavec finds the condition under which visitors have to be vaccinated, tested or recovered from Covid-19 “the least of a problem”, saying it has already become s standard in the business world.

What he does find problematic is the cap of one person per 10 square metres, but says the company having 70% of its spaces outdoors works to its advantage.

Pomurski Sejem is also already working on a fair of defence, security, protection and rescue and a modern medicine fair, both of which are planned for September.

“2020 was an absolute catastrophe for us, having to cancel all six planned fairs, which caused us a loss of over EUR 400,000,” says Erjavec.

The company also cancelled this year’s hunting and nature fairs, which means an additional loss of income of around EUR 200,000, he has told the STA. Nevertheless, there have been no layoffs.