Seafood Expo North America prepared for coronavirus impacts

Published on
February 27, 2020

Diversified Communications, the company that organizes Seafood Expo North America/Seafood Processing North America (SENA) each year, said it is prepared for potential impacts to the event caused by COVID-19, commonly known as coronavirus.

The Expo, which will take place from 15 to 17 March, has been the subject of speculation regarding the coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China in December 2019. Rumors that the Expo could be cancelled, or that the event has been heavily impacted, are ”simply not true,” according to Mary Larkin, president, Diversified Communications USA.

“We do expect to see some level of impact related to travel bans,” Larkin told SeafoodSource. Larkin – who is also president of UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry – acknowledged that the coronavirus has resulted in some exhibiting companies from Mainland China being unable to travel to the show. She also noted, in a statement to UFI, that industry events “are especially important in times of disruption.”

“It is our obligation to maintain opportunities for people to meet wherever possible,” Larkin said. “Small and medium businesses in all industries in particular depend on exhibitions. And, like all types of events, they support the economy worldwide.”

As of 27 February, 23 exhibitors from China are still planning to attend the show, down from 172 exhibitors who had planned to attend as of 14 February.

“We’re definitely going to miss the valuable Chinese customers who are unable to participate,” Wynter Courmont, Event Director for SENA, told SeafoodSource. “It’s unfortunate that many of them won’t be able to make it this year due to no fault of their own, and we look forward to welcoming them back in future editions of the event.”

While Chinese exhibitors face travel restrictions that may prevent their company from attending, over 1,100 exhibitors still plan to exhibit at the Expo.

“We’re still going; if the show goes, we go,” President and CEO of PEI Mussel King Esther Dockendorff  told SeafoodSource. “It’s a pretty big event in our annual calendar.”

She added that the company has been exhibiting at SENA for over three decades, and she expects that many other companies will continue their attendance for reasons similar to hers.

“I’m hoping it will be quality versus quantity this year,” Dockendorff said. “I think the people that will be there will be the people there on a mission.”

Danny Alva, sales director at the Del Pacifico Seafood Group, said that he plans to attend the show, despite the rumors he’s heard of potential drop-outs.

“We’re looking forward to it, and I think it’s very important to our business,” he said. He added that the majority of his business’s focus is on North America, and the Expo represents an important opportunity.

“We actually made our booth larger this year by adding 20 feet of space,” he said.

While Diversified acknowledges that the virus has had a negative impact on attendance from Chinese companies, it also pointed out that many metrics for the show are trending ahead of 2019. The number of key buyers pre-registered to attend, for instance, is 9 percent higher than it was at this same time in 2019, which would make 2020 a record year.

Key buyer companies that plan to attend include Albertsons, Amazon, Bento Sushi, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Costco, Delaware North, McDonalds, Performance Foodservice, Publix, Sam’s Club, Sysco, US Foods, Walmart, Wegmans, and Whole Foods Market, and many more, according to Diversified.

“I see this year’s Seafood Expo North America just like previous years,” Josephine Theal, a key buyer with Delaware North, told SeafoodSource. “Attending the show is vital to my organization’s business! For us, it is the most critical category show of the year where we have opportunity to connect with both suppliers and industry experts on trends, insights, strategy and sustainability.”

Conference attendance, as well, is also trending positive, with 17 percent more attendees preregistered than this same time last year and 93 people registering for the conference pass since last week. The Expo’s New and Featured Product showcase, as well, will feature 112 products this year – a record-breaking year in terms of entries.

Diversified Communications recently released an update on its preparations to handle the coronavirus in advance of the show, including offering some “common-sense” precautions to take. The company has also been in contact with local media – including the Boston Globe – addressing its plans.

“Diversified Communications has been responding to public safety situations for many years and has an effective crisis management protocol in place,” Diversified Communications Group Vice President Liz Plizga told SeafoodSource in January, when the coronavirus first started showing up on exhibitor’s radar. “We have great confidence in our partnerships with the cities and local authorities where our events take place, and we will continue to update our customers on new developments. We look forward to a safe and successful event.”

United States President Donald Trump also recently addressed the coronavirus’s potential in the U.S., pointing out that of the people that had been reported infected in the country, some have already made a full recovery.

“We’re ready to adapt and we’re ready to do whatever we have to as the disease spreads, if it spreads,” Trump said during a press conference on the virus. “As most of you know, the level that we’ve had in our country is very low, and those people are getting better.”

Diversified will continue to post any updates regarding the coronavirus and Seafood Expo North America to a special web page created for attendees interested in more information. [Editor’s note: Diversified Communications also owns and operates SeafoodSource].  

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