The exhibition sector is ready to get back to work. AEFI with its 39 member exhibition districts has conceived and drawn up a set of guidelines for the organisation and management of safe exhibitions during the Covid-19 emergency. The document drawn up by AEFI has been forwarded to the pertinent Authorities. “We hope that what we have put together can become an official protocol as soon as possible, so that exhibition organisers can get back to work, minimising the damage to the sector and respecting their commitment towards Italy’s economy and those of the various industrial sectors concerned”, says Giovanni Laezza, chairman of AEFI- Associazione Esposizioni e Fiere Italiane.

“We have spoken out on several occasions to draw attention to the strategic importance of exhibitions for our economy. We have repeatedly emphasised the need for help in sustaining the damages suffered, costs borne and revenues lost due to the cancellation and postponement of events as a result of the Covid-19 emergency. While the Government reaches a decision on how it is going to support the exhibition sector – setting up a fund or putting other measures in place so that the exhibition organisers can continue operating and start competing at international level again – we have drawn up an articulate document together with our Technical and Legal Committees which considers the specificities of the sector and contains a full set of guidelines for a safe return to work. The exhibition organisers have taken action and are ready. Now we are waiting for the institutions to give us a date on which we can reopen our business”, adds Laezza.

The aim of the protocol drawn up by AEFI is to simplify the approval procedure for reopening exhibitions, supplying all the necessary organisational and operational guidance with the aim of increasing the efficiency of precautions taken at exhibition centres during events of all kinds to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
The protocol envisages health and hygiene provisions and behavioural measures, and contains precautions and actions to implement the legislation in place and the indications of the health authority: from social distancing to information and the correct use of PPE, from health checks during admission to the correct cleaning and sanitisation of the venue where the event takes place, before, during and after every event, through to the Covid19 emergency health plan, which also envisages the preparation of adequate premises and the presence of medical assistance during the exhibition.

By way of example, as far access by suppliers and fitters is concerned, transit and exit will be pre-arranged, in order to reduce the opportunities for contact, and all legislation on conditions of danger, distancing, PPE and sanitisation will be applied.

We need an opening date so that we can schedule events for the time best suited to the requirements of each industrial sector, and plan the necessary organisation activities.

“The role of exhibitions is to generate value for enterprise, employment and local economies. And this is a role than cannot be replaced by digital technology. They multiply social and economic well-being and are a real platform for the internationalisation of the Italian manufacturing system. Shutting them down was the right thing to do but now it is in the interests of the whole national system to reopen”, continues Laezza.

Access by visitors and exhibitors will take place with pre-arranged admission, transit, exit, methods, paths and timing, in order to reduce the opportunities for contact, and will be regulated with specific measures for the assessment of conditions of danger. Every organiser and exhibition centre manager must also provide compulsory masks for operators and visitors, supplying those who do not have masks of their own at the entrance.

As far as the organisation of events is concerned, including the fitting and dismantling phases, the exhibition centre premises have enough indoor and outdoor room and capacity to guarantee distancing of at least 1 metre between the operators present. In order to reduce crowds and guarantee distances, exhibition centres will adopt specific and additional measures, such as lengthening the duration of events with a high number of visitors, balanced attendance management with ticket sales and bookings on line, the expansion of spaces, where possible, and specific positioning in conference rooms.

The document has been drawn up by AEFI’s pool of professionals who, besides being experts in legal, health and safety matters, have a perfect knowledge of the sector and all its organisational processes. It considers all the structural elements that characterise the sector and comply with the national regulations governing the Covid-19 pandemic emergency; the measures taken by the individual Regions and Autonomous Provinces with regard to health and hygiene indications to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus; the recommendations of the World Health Organisation with regard to the Covid-19 emergency; the shared protocol for the regulation of measures to counter and contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus, approved on 24 April 2020 by the Government in agreement with Social Parties, as well as the technical document issued by INAIL on the possible remodulation of measures to contain infection from SARS-CoV-2 in the workplace and prevention strategies (April 2020) and indications for the reopening of exhibitions drawn up by UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry.

The measures indicated in the AEFI protocol must be activated and made operational, as and when necessary, adopting the criterion of proportionality in relation to the size and type of events and the number of operators (visitors, exhibitors, fitters, staff and suppliers of the manager and the organiser).

AEFI – Associazione Esposizioni e Fiere Italiane, a private non-profit Association, was established in 1983 with the goal of generating synergies between the most important Italian exhibition districts. It currently includes 39 member exhibition districts, which organise over 1000 events a year across an overall exhibition area of 4.2 million square metres. Nearly all international and national trade fairs which take place each year in Italy are held in AEFI-member exhibition districts. AEFI is a privileged partner for operators and institutions alike, and its role is to support members through the development of activities and programmes in the sphere of training, marketing, promotion and research, as well as to provide services for trade fairs through the activities of its Committees: Exhibition Hub Technical Committee, Legal-Administrative Committee, Internationalisation Committee and Trade Fairs Network Committee. On the internationalisation front, AEFI supports members thanks to agreements with strategic markets. To date, partnerships have been agreed with Iran, Taiwan, Lebanon, India, Thailand, South Africa and Poland, with AmCham, the American Chamber of Commerce in Italy, with CENTREX, the International Exhibition Statistics Union and with EUPIC-EU Project Innovation Center. A memorandum of understanding has been signed with SACE and SIMEST. AEFI has promoted the foundation of ISFCert, the Certification Institute for Exhibition Industry Statistics which, through rigorous methodologies, enables Italian organisers to present and recognise standardised data, in the name of transparency and reliability. AEFI represents Italian trade fairs in UFI – Union of International Fairs.


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