We were sworn to secrecy (read NDA) and to be frank I did not even know where I was going to till a few days before the event. The excitement was building up. Everyone including the industry magazines were on a guessing adventure. The conversations seemed to indicate Germany. Then a few days before the press conference, the Spanish local media spilled the beans and my phone was lighting up with the question – is it true? ISE immediately contacted the press and requested us to release the news about their move to Barcelona. One main reason was that there was some misinformation from the Spanish local press – for example, they stated that the move would happen from 2020.
Why did it capture everyone’s attention? Well first and foremost we cannot deny that ISE is the industry’s largest AV exhibition in the world. Space was becoming a major concern. Where it will be held was crucial. I recall when ISE first started, it was held in Geneva and Brussels before it found itself a home that everyone could agree to – Amsterdam. I believe the location was crucial to the success of the exhibition and its tremendous growth. So the move would play an important role.
The folks at ISE had to weigh so many considerations – connectivity, space, support from the local government and more and they took months to come to a decision. If there is one thing I have learned by being involved in the peripheral of exhibitions – you cannot please everyone.
As I see it the advantages of Barcelona are:
1. The Gran Via, part of the Fira de Barcelona exhibition complex occupies 8 halls and 200,000sqm of exhibition floor space. Within these halls is where ISE will be held and considering the space, the space can easily accommodate ISE’s continued growth.
2. The Halls are all on one floor which makes it easy for visitors to visit the different halls as well as for exhibitor’s set-up.
3. There is a walk-way at the top floor with travelator for easy access to each of the halls should you not want to walk on the first floor.
4. There seems to be sufficient rooms on the top floor for seminars, etc. Again these are in one area so you will not get lost.
5. I was told that the weather for certain would be better than Amsterdam during the same period.
6. Visitors to Barcelona will be happy to note that there are signages in English on the streets so that should be helpful for non-Spanish speaking visitors.
7. There are plenty of hotels and though 2021 is three years away, the rates seem more attractive than Amsterdam and there are at least three hotels near the exhibition hall.
8. There is a direct metro line to the exhibition hall, which is connected directly to the airport. Other transport options are also easily available.
For those travelling from Asia I feel it would not make a big difference in terms of travelling time and time difference compared to Amsterdam. Food however may be a slight issue as Amsterdam serves the world with its cosmopolitan fare. I did not feel that in Spain. There were sporadic Asian food restaurants that I saw in my short trip. The biggest issue for ISE would be to figure out where the key exhibitors will be placed in the hall as it is a completely different configuration. Well the good news is that they still have time to sort it out. The other concern seems to be in relation to the connectivity to Barcelona from the European end. Access to Amsterdam is easy for the Germans, French and even the British. Companies were comfortable in sending a number of staff as they could drive in and spend a day at the exhibition. This apparently is not as convenient where Barcelona is concerned – will this affect visitorship?
For the Asian visitors some of the key countries’ airlines do land in Barcelona including Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Air China, Korean Air and Garuda Indonesia. Emirates and Qatar too land in Barcelona. So I think for most of the Asian country visitors it should not be a problem getting to Barcelona directly or indirectly.
Barcelona has a lot to offer in terms of tourist attractions so it is very possible that we will see visitors extend their stay or even adjust their travel to be in Barcelona on the third and fourth day and then extend for their personal holiday over the weekend.
The exhibition will be held from 2 – 5 February 2021. As the Chinese New Year during 2021 falls on 12 February onwards, we should see a great turnout from Asia for the inaugural Barcelona edition:)
Photos of Gran Via, Fira de Barcelona: