Conferences and Exhibitions
With the aviation industry's expo and conference calendar erased for the foreseeable future, Resilient Aviation spoke to Mark Brown, founder and Managing Director of international publishers and conference & exhibition organisers, Times Aerospace Ltd, about the challenges the pandemic has brought.
Over 110 aviation events have been cancelled or postponed because of Covid-19. How are you managing this part of your business?
It is sad that we have lost big trade/public aviation gatherings like Farnborough and RIAT and EBACE - that won’t come back this year. Last week we announced the new dates for our Aviation MENA Cairo show (18th and 19th October). The problem rescheduling is that you are already limited on the venue and restricted on dates too. Every conference organiser is trying to do the same. No one wants to do an event in July or August, so there’s a very limited window we have.
You were able to run Aviation Africa just before the lockdown - how was that?
We were so lucky. It ran in Addis Ababa on 4th and 5th March. One week later and we would have had to cancel. Some delegates were already being told not to take non-essential travel. Some were taking calls telling them to come home now as the conference wound down. We were a little lighter on numbers, but we gathered in 722 delegates from 82 countries and the feedback was great. It would have cost us dearly to cancel and too late to get any money back from contractors, stand builders, AV suppliers etc.
How are you managing on the publishing side?
This is extremely hard. From our advertisers’ point of view, September to December planning is very busy for us. This is the time we typically talk with clients about their forward campaigns and help them plan packages for the year. Of course, we have forward bookings, but now we are taking calls and emails from clients asking what options are there to move (or cancel) as they seek to hold on to cash. We don’t know how long we are in this. Forward bookings are just part of it. The other is particular issues tied to a special show – which is no longer running. We will typically get six or seven (extra) big advertisers in for a special event like The Airport Show in Dubai, who want that bonus distribution.
How are you innovating to counter the setback?
We aren’t seeing any opportunity to book new business at the moment, so we just have to be creative. We do, however, have a highly engaged readership so we can suggest they change their (less pertinent to the now) advertisements to topical sponsored Op-ed/commentary pieces. People are working from home with so much more time to read, so we’re focusing on content for greater engagement. We are also launching a series of 15-20 minute podcasts with our anchor/editor Alan Peaford. We kicked off the first one with a no holds barred interview with IATA’s CEO. We want to hear from CEO’s about what they think our industry will look like when we get out of this.
You say Covid-19 provides an opportunity. In what way?
The arrival of this pandemic is affecting everyone. It gives us time to reappraise our business and how we do things. For example, we’re looking at our digital and video content. When we come out of this this will be more in demand. The team is doing things (from home) like database inputting; updating our contacts. We are also keeping in touch with our valued writers who are missing out on that buzz of prepping pre-writes for shows. On the rebound I expect rescheduled conferences could likely host two or three events - why not - that makes sense. I expect there will be heightened consolidation in the industry, so why not more complementary co-hosted events too?
What are you looking forward to when we are out of this?
Personally, I’m looking forward to getting back into the office routine. I’m usually at my desk at 8.30 am and if not travelling I’ll be home just before 7 pm. I run a busy sales team. We bounce a lot of ideas off each other and much of my work is meeting people. (Working from home these past two weeks has shown that the fridge is unwelcome distraction!) It’s looking like NBAA will be the time when the business aviation community meets again and this will be very big – and very welcome. I’m looking forward to our event in Cairo too, where we’ve already decided to partner with Inflight for a dedicated IFEC pavilion. Maybe others will want to come in with us. I’m open to any ideas.
Mark Brown is the founder and Managing Director of Times Aerospace Ltd, international publishers and conference & exhibition organisers based in Essex, UK. Publisher of both Arabian Aerospace and African Aerospace magazines, Times Aerospace also publishes ADVANCE magazine, the official publication of the UK Aerospace, Defence, Security & Space association, ADS. Times Aerospace also organises the Aviation Africa Summits across the African continent, annually attracting over 1000 delegates and 100+ exhibitors and sponsors. October 2020 sees the launch of the Aviation MENA Summit in Cairo and plans for 2021 include the debut of Aviation INDIA.
BlueSky Business Aviation News | 9th April 2020 | Issue #552
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