Interview DTZ with Sabine Loos, CEO of Westfalenhallen Unternehmensgruppe
DTZ: Ms Loos, where do you happen to be right now?
LOOS: I'm talking to you from my office. Our offices are frequented a lot less now due to various measures such as people working remotely or using up overtime, etc., but I'm on site nearly every day.
DTZ: Do you currently find yourself on the exhibition centre premises now and then? What does it feel like?
LOOS: Given the size of our premises, this is probably the place that puts the most distance between people. Yes, I'm out and about on the premises from time to time. We're using the current time to tackle some things that are more difficult to do during normal operations, and of course it's always nice to look around and imagine the halls soon filling up with exhibitors and visitors.
DTZ: There are still a few months to go before InterTabac and InterSupply. What's your assessment of the situation – will the fair be able to take place?
LOOS: On current information, we assume economic restrictions will continue to be eased towards late summer. This goes for trade fair activity, and also for travel inside Germany and abroad. On that basis, we're assuming that InterTabac and InterSupply will be able to go ahead as planned.
The Association of Trade Fair Organisers is currently in detailed talks with the Federal Government and the state authorities in North-Rhine Westphalia to develop and coordinate measures for staging trade fairs safely before long. This includes allowing visitors from abroad to travel to trade fairs in Germany. We're keeping a close eye on developments and watching emerging recommendations in all areas. Our aim is to give exhibitors and visitors a firm basis for their planning before the summer.
DTZ: Presumably any planning you and your team currently do is a bit like “the best-laid plans of mice and men”. Do you nevertheless have ideas for making the trade fairs safer from a health perspective?
LOOS: We have implemented various measures for our employees, exhibitors and visitors across the entire Group right when the pandemic started, including increased hygiene measures in the visitor areas, installing a host of disinfectant dispensers, and running educational campaigns, to name but some. As you'd expect, we're already planning to be able – if necessary – to hold our trade fairs with all the precautionary measures, such as protective masks that can be handed out to visitors. These – and many other – considerations are occupying our minds every day, because the health and well-being of our visitors, exhibitors and employees is top priority.
DTZ: Registrations are coming in thick and fast. What are the bookings looking like right now?
LOOS: Given the current situation, really good. Right now, Halls 1-8 and the Westfalenhalle are set to be occupied as usual by the two fairs. Of course, due to the current challenges, IT 2020 will be different from previous incarnations. However, the same goes for all areas of business, and for people's social and private lives. That's why you can't just bring everything to a standstill now. Life has to go on, and we must all work together to rebuild and get the economy back on track. Together with InterSupply, InterTabac offers all segments the ideal platform for doing this. We cordially invite people to grasp this opportunity.
DTZ: And where is the focus going to be this year?
LOOS: Among other things, it's going to be about making the range of products on offer as attractive as possible for merchants and retailers. This also includes expanding last year's supporting programme – the first of its kind – to include topical issues. Especially in these difficult times, it's important to get some stimulus going, to actively communicate and share experiences. It is important now for the industry to stand together as one.
DTZ: Are there any other innovations compared to last time?
LOOS: Visitor services, in particular, are being expanded. The InterTabac website already features a selection of different hotels – and categories of hotel – with attractive offers from € 90 p.p. which can be booked quickly and easily. We are also using the time to upgrade our ticket system. Even though trade visitor registration is still in place, we've been able to streamline the processes a lot, making ticket purchases easier for everyone.
DTZ: How significant are InterTabac and InterSupply to Dortmund Exhibition Centre?
LOOS: By virtue of their long tradition, the two fairs are of great importance to Dortmund as an exhibition venue. As well as the high presence of international exhibitors, it is above all the sheer number of visitors that comes to people's minds when they think of the fair. The fairs are also of great importance to the city of Dortmund, which is firmly committed to the world's largest trade fair for tobacco products and smokers' requisites, and thus offers a host of benefits to visitors and exhibitors alike.