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An unexpected virus, unexpected opportunities

On 17 March, just like all exhibition and event venues in the Netherlands, we had to close our doors from one day to the next, and cancel all our events. Because we’re an international company, we were well prepared, and we had our crisis-management playbooks ready. Our businesses in Asia, and China in particular, were already feeling the effects of the outbreak of COVID-19 in February. Right from the start, we acted in accordance with our national and international ‘COVID Principles’: the interests and safety of our employees, our customers, and our suppliers come first, in that order. Next come the long-term vitality of our company and our sustainability goals. 

A number of factors have given us the confidence that we can come out of the coronavirus crisis fitter than before. First of all, we have a solid financial foundation. We were healthy as we headed into the crisis. First, our solid financial position has allowed us to invest in our ambitions despite the sudden loss of pretty much all of our business. Second, in 2019, we had settled on our vision and mission. We were already working on the strategy we had previously formulated, a strategy focused on growth, winning new business, technological innovation, and sustainability. That focus allowed us to press ahead right away at an accelerated pace with the new organisational structure we had announced at the end of 2019, and to digitise our venue and make it sustainable.

"We have invested heavily in technology, digitisation and technology"

In 2020 we invested three million euros in technology, in digitalisation, and in enhancing our technological lead. To this end, we had already concluded a strategic alliance with Samsung Global. With innovative information technologies, we can now improve the experience our customers and visitors have and offer them a personalised journey. In mid-2020 we installed a sustainable network of beacons complemented by magnetic positioning and Wi-Fi in our complex of exhibition halls. This network offers our customers endless networking and marketing opportunities and options for indoor navigation. A secondary benefit is that we can also use the technology for crowd management during the COVID-19 crisis, thus ensuring safe 1.5-metre social distancing. For this purpose, we developed the special Jaarbeurs Welcome app in 2020, which will keep us – and visitors – informed about where it is busy in the halls, so that they can adapt their visit accordingly.

Towards the end of 2020, we were the first event venue in the Netherlands to be awarded the Kiwa seal of approval for COVID-19 prevention measures. That the doors can open again safely in 2021 is quite certain.