Q&A with Diversified Communications Vice President of Seafood Expositions Liz Plizga
Liz Plizga is the vice president of seafood expositions at Diversified Communications, the producer of the 2016 Seafood Expo Global/Seafood Processing Global, taking place 26 to 28 April in Brussels, Belgium (Note: Diversified Communications is the parent company of SeafoodSource).
SeafoodSource: Extra security measures have been put in place for Seafood Expo Global/Seafood Processing Global 2016. Can you give a general overview of what’s been added for this year’s show and how that might affect attendees?
Plizga: Our primary goal is the safety of our customers while maintaining a pleasant and valuable customer experience. We have a comprehensive security plan in place which includes everything from metal detection scanning with wands, body pat-downs, bag checks at the perimeter of the Brussels Expo to detection dogs and possible ID checks. Furthermore, the city has confirmed that there will be more police and military presence throughout the city including the metro, airport and the city centers.
Additional security measures are in place but cannot be divulged to the public for everyone’s safety. We encourage people to limit bags and we also encourage people to allow for extra time. A shuttle reminiscent of the service in place for the strike last year will be provided during the exposition days to and from six major points in the city center and the Exposition Center to provide another transportation option. All shuttle stops will have security screening as well.
SeafoodSource: How are the overall attendance numbers for the show? Do you have numbers for exhibitors, key buyers, attendees, and are they up or down from previous years?
Plizga: This year’s exposition will host more than 1,650 companies from 76 countries including 72 national and regional pavilions. As a practice, visitor numbers are not shared until after the event as we report the number of people once we’ve had a chance to clean our database and “de-dupe” contacts of visitors who actually attended. We will expect an impact, however, we have had some positive indicators. Even after the incidents in Brussels, registration of visitors has been very active. Visitors from all over the world are registering to attend, from China, France, Germany and Poland, to Italy, Spain and the U.S., to name a few. We have had buyers from more than 100 countries register to attend the event since 22 March.
SeafoodSource: There have been recent headlines about major companies pulling out of their exhibitors spots. Why are so many of the companies pulling out European, and specifically Norwegian? Will they still have a presence at the show in another form?
Plizga: Overall, our exhibitor cancellation represents only five percent of the total exhibit space, which means we have retained 95 percent of a very large exposition. They have come from various regions across the globe. Previous to 22 March, we had been tracking well ahead of 2015 and were prepared to break new records. A lot of attention has been focused on specific companies who have pulled out from regions like Norway and the U.S., as an example, but it is important to note that we have retained more than 80 companies from Norway and over 50 companies from the United States who are exhibiting in the exposition. And some of the cancelled companies are opting to still send representatives to the event.
SeafoodSource: What are they telling you are their reasons for withdrawing? How are you addressing those concerns?
Plizga: Really, the primary reason is in response to the recent events in Brussels. For many companies, explaining the security efforts in place has helped to quell concern, and for others, it is really an individual decision they need to make.
SeafoodSource: Is there concern about a drop in the number of key buyers at this year’s show? What does the number of registered key buyers look like now compared to 2015? Are you confident in key buyer attendance to the point where compensation for companies is not going to be an option?
Plizga: Our key buyer program includes a dedicated outreach to high-volume retail and foodservice buyers and represents a subset of the overall audience. The pre-registration of this group is currently tracking similar to last year at this time.
SeafoodSource: How have attacks influenced your opinion of Brussels as a location for the show? What is your perspective on attendees’ opinions of it? Are there plans to look outside of Brussels for future shows?
Plizga: Unfortunately, the tragic events that occurred in Brussels this month could happen in many different cities. Brussels has taken exceptional measures to maximize safety and help to maintain business continuity. And, it has been very helpful to build off of the long standing relationships with the city, the venue and the police. The option of relocation is continuously evaluated regardless of the situation. Factors such as accessibility to the location, market demands and attendee needs are some that are taken into consideration. We have heard over the years from customers who wish to move from Brussels and on the other hand, there are just as many who wish to stay in Brussels.