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London Wine Fair goes digital for 2021

The London Wine Fair will take place online this year as coronavirus restrictions have made a virtual show “inevitable”, head of the exhibition Hannah Tovey said this morning.

No live event this year as the London Wine Fair goes virtual

Admitting that she had been confident at the end of last year that the 2021 show would take place as a live event at its usual mid-May timing, today, Hannah Tovey said that there was “too much uncertainty” for this to be possible.

“In December we were very confident that a live event would be possible; everything was looking extremely positive at that stage and the Association of Event Organisers (AEO) was advising that live events could safely take place from early 2021,” began Tovey.

Continuing, the head of the London Wine Fair said, “But just one-month on and there is now just too much uncertainty and we cannot be confident in delivering a safe and meaningful live event.”

She added, “The UK is in lockdown and is likely to be so for several more weeks; the new variant strain and its transmissibility is concerning, as are international travel restrictions, which would affect a number of our exhibitors, as well as visitors.”

Having had to cancel last year’s fair, Tovey said that she had made contingency plans for this year’s even event, allowing for the show to switch to a hybrid one – with a live and digital element – or, as has now been decided upon, a fully virtual fair.

With an optimistic outlook, Tovey said that she believes that this year’s digital show will “enhance” future physical events.

Speaking about this year’s web-based show, she said that it would remain an “essential forum for the drinks industry”, noting that there is “a real appetite for the 40th edition of the London Wine Fair to go ahead”.

Concluding on the fair this year, whether live or virtual, she said that it would prove “invaluable” due to the challenges facing the industry in 2021.

“Taking place towards the end of a global pandemic and at the beginning of the UK’s departure from the EU, and with international trading more complex than ever, it will be an invaluable platform for business, knowledge gathering and contact building.”

The 2021 London Wine Fair will take place online between 17-19 May, with the organisers claiming it will be “the most advanced digital show of its kind, with an unrivalled, pioneering offer”.

Having already considered offering a hybrid event, combining both live and digital elements, plans for at least some digital element have been in place for several weeks, and the London Wine Fair team has been working with Bottlebooks, which runs the show’s database, to implement this.

The organiser said that the digital platform will create “a fully immersive event which will allow exhibitors and visitors to engage on a one-to-one basis, in larger groups and across the whole London Wine Fair audience to recreate the typical buzz of a live show”.

Exhibitors will have a virtual stand, which can be tailored for individual companies or as a generic pavilion for associations or groups of exhibitors.

Each stand can feature imagery, tasting notes, news of launches, videos of the winemaking team, virtual winery tours and access to bookable 121 meetings.

Added upgrades will allow exhibitors to send out samples to specific visitors, including buyers, key decision makers and wine writers.

These can either be handled directly by the exhibitors or organised by LWF, which will work with a partner to fulfil sampling in mini tasting formats to UK addresses and internationally.

According to the London Wine Fair, a fully digital show will mean “a significant cost saving for exhibitors”. While the cost of a virtual stand will be much lower, there will also be savings on the associated cost of travel, accommodation and entertainment, which, the organiser said, can amount to several thousand pounds for the average exhibitor.

It is expected that the majority of exhibitors who signed up to the 2020 show, and who were intending to participate in 2021, will attend, and that several more will now take part, many for the first time.

The London Wine Fair virtual layout will replicate the live event, with the event split into “rooms”, featuring Industry Briefings, Seminars and Masterclasses.

Exhibitors can be filtered by “zone”, such as Esoterica or Wines Unearthed, to recreate the sense of the live event.

Industry Briefings will be live, with real-time Q&As, and visitors will be able to access recorded editions in their own time, which will ensure a broader overall reach, across time zones. The schedule will provide a rich resource for issues pertinent to the U.K. and the international industry right now: Brexit; Covid-19; Climate Change; recovery strategies for the on-trade; and global trading conditions will all be featured.

A programme of hosted Tasting Masterclasses will be also be accessible, with pre-booking essential to ensure samples can be delivered in advance.

As with the 2019 Fair, visitors will be charged for entry. Tickets, which will cost £20, will give access to all three days of content and three months of exhibitor listings and sample request opportunities. All those applying for tickets will be verified to ensure the audience is 100% trade and relevant. It is expected that without the barriers of time constraints and travel, that apply to some elements of the trade, the visitor audience is likely to be significant.

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Meanwhile, as reported by db last month, Messe Düsseldorf, the organiser of ProWein, which takes place in March, has decided to cancel this year’s edition of the exhibition due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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