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The second year of the coronavirus crisis

During the first few months of 2021, the Netherlands was in lockdown and live events were limited. However, we did play host to a large nationwide experiment on Thursday 20 May. ‘Event Summit’ was designated by the government as a field lab event for exploring how commercial events could be held safely and responsibly during the pandemic.

The government’s coronavirus measures were relaxed at the end of September and Jaarbeurs was temporarily able to open its doors again fully. The Camping & Caravan Fair in October was the first major public event after the coronavirus pandemic broke out. Almost 35,000 visitors came to the Netherlands’ premier camping event, which was well above expectations. We also welcomed visitors to events including Kreadoe, TBX, Zorg & ICT and ICT & Logistiek, until the coronavirus measures unexpectedly had to be tightened up again in mid-November and major events had to close their doors.

During the period we were open, from September to November, we facilitated and organised dozens of live events, seminars and conferences and Jaarbeurs was once again the live meeting place to be. In mid-November, we switched back completely to online and hybrid. Only a few meetings were excepted. In consultation with our customers, we postponed most major events until 2022. Online options were also utilised. We exchanged a lot of knowledge and experience with our international subsidiaries about organising online and hybrid events, which all helped the value proposition.

What was still possible and what was not? The national guidelines were interpreted in consultations with the municipality of Utrecht. When events could still take place, we looked at them individually to see how we could best ensure the safety of visitors and how we could make the event attractive and successful within that framework. 

The live exhibitions and events that could take place were highly appreciated, even though the market uncertainty led to some events being downsized. Although visitor numbers were not yet back at the pre-coronavirus levels, exhibitors said that they were more satisfied than expected with the quality of the visits and the results, according to research carried out by an external partner.

Learning from practice

The short period that Jaarbeurs was in full swing in 2021 let us test whether our strategy of renewal was also adding value for visitors and exhibitors in practice. Our innovations are now letting us improve the experience we offer customers and visitors, individualising it all for them. Once we have reopened in 2022, we will further refine the exhibition concepts, digital services, event implementation and supporting business processes.

Confidence undiminished

The urgent need to come out of the crisis better and stronger – Back2Better – was felt throughout Jaarbeurs in 2021. Zoom meetings, open dialogues, our internal communications app Jappie and attention and care for each other let us keep the Back2Better perspective alive. Together, we created connections, fun, trust, renewal and improvement. In 2022, we will be building on an open corporate culture.

Involvement of the governmental authorities, including extending and continuing emergency measures to keep jobs open and contributions to fixed expenses, let us continue our business operations for companies that were particularly affected by the coronavirus crisis.

Winning poster

Since 1917, Jaarbeurs has maintained a tradition of posters made by Dutch designers. To celebrate reopening our doors in September after the lockdown, we teamed up with HKU University of the Arts Utrecht to challenge students to make a poster for the opening. The winning design by Peter Roeleveld and Noah van de Wetering was displayed prominently in and around Jaarbeurs as symbolic confirmation that Jaarbeurs is crisis-proof.

The Princess Máxima Paediatric Oncology Centre

We are committed to our partner, the Princess Máxima Paediatric Oncology Centre, in numerous ways. We raise funds at events, for example, and help the specialist children’s hospital organise meetings. This was done at the Kreadoe show and the Camping and Caravan Fair, and elsewhere. Last year, we set up special collection points for returnable bottles at our trade fairs and events. The deposits – around €35,000 in a normal year – go to the Princess Máxima Centre. It also helps us directly by collecting the bottles separately. The employees also organised a sporting event for the Máxima Centre that raised €27,000.

Jaarbeurs for a day

After a competition that was run together with RTV Utrecht, the prize winner ADSU won the keys to Jaarbeurs for a day. ADSU is an Utrecht-based partnership of sixteen organisations in the mentally disabled, addiction and mental healthcare sectors. The day is due to take place in 2022.


JINC Baas van Morgen (Tomorrow’s Boss) was about ‘Equal opportunities at work’. JINC focuses on young people from socio-economically disadvantaged districts. On 10 June, over 550 primary and secondary school pupils took over the chairs of CEOs, directors and politicians throughout the Netherlands for a day. This time around, 12-year-old Chamea took over the chair of our CFO Franka Morssink online.

2021 Phoenix Award: turning setbacks into successes

In May, we were proud to receive the 2021 Phoenix Award. The award, an annual prize for companies that have successfully coped with major setbacks, was presented at the Big Improvement Day. According to the jury, Jaarbeurs showed perseverance and resilience by grasping the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to invest more quickly in sustainability, digitalisation and new exhibition concepts.

“Live meetings are essential for our members”

“A couple of times a year, we organise an event about medical matters through Medisch Contact, the professional journal of the Royal Dutch Medical Association. Our journal celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2019. That’s a special milestone that we wanted to celebrate with an anniversary event, ‘The doctor and language’. We set up a nice, interactive programme with workshops, lectures and cabaret. And we found a wonderful, central location in Jaarbeurs. But coronavirus scuppered the plans and we had to postpone the event twice. Doing it entirely online wasn’t an option because meeting our members is so important and stimulating. An event in the field lab test context didn’t fit with our concept either. Jaarbeurs has been understanding and flexible throughout, even though everyone’s had to do the work three times. That’s great service. The postponed event was finally held on 28 September. It had a strong programme, an eye-catching sponsor market and excellent catering – vegetarian too! We can look back on a neatly organised event in a beautiful setting.”

Evert Pronk, deputy editor of Medisch Contact