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Vinexposium CEO: ‘We have a duty to deliver a show’

“We have a duty to deliver a show,” said Vinexposium Group CEO Rodolphe Lameyse about his Paris wine and spirits fair, which takes place in less than six weeks time.

Rodolphe Lameyse. Credit: Jean-Bernard Nadeau

Speaking to db yesterday following news that Vinexpo & Wine Paris is to go ahead as planned on 14-16 February, despite the rise in cases in France of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, he outlined the reasons why it was vital that a major, international drinks event should take place in Paris at the start of 2022.

Admitting to db that he had just been through “an intense week” of discussions with Vinexposium stakeholders over whether to hold the event, which will welcome 2,800 exhibitors from 32 countries, he said that “as the first international event in the calendar, we have a duty to deliver a show; it would be the wrong signal to the whole world of wine and spirits not to do the show.”

His reasons for saying this are myriad, but the key among them is a desire among members of the trade to meet in person to do business, something he has picked up over many discussions with producers and retailers.

He also said there was a financial need for a show organiser like Vinexposium to host a fair to survive, following such an extended period with no major physical events.

While he also feels that Vinexpo Paris, as the first large-scale event of 2022, must take place to prove to the global drinks industry that it’s possible to meet and trade face-to-face.

“If we don’t do our show in February, then I’m very sceptical that other shows will take place in other places, and not having shows for 2-3 years in a row is very painful for our type of company,” he said of exhibition organisers like Vinexposium and Messe Düsseldorf, the group behind ProWein.

Continuing, he said that in-person meetings were of the “utmost importance”, adding, “After two years of zoom and teams we have to see each other face-to-face again,” describing big international shows as “a higher level of humanity”.

He also said, “I have no concern about the quality of business, it will be delivered, which is something I’ve seen in the Netherlands at our bulk wine event [in November] – it was a stressful time, and I was surprised by the quality of business, and the level of humanity; people were excited to see each other.”

Asked whether he expected to see the same number of visitors to the Paris show as he did pre-Covid, he said, “Absolutely not”.

“We will have a discount, with some not travelling because they are too scared, or because the big companies will limit the number of buyers they send, but the quality of buyers that do attend will be super high because of this,” he added, before later suggesting that he expects 15-20% fewer visitors.

As for any risks to the show being cancelled due to a change in policy from the French government, Lameyse said that this was highly unlikely.

“We have had many discussions with government bodies to ensure there is no issue with a trade show in February in Paris, and we have had clearance despite the current situation with the pandemic,” he said, noting that the Salon International de l’Agriculture was taking place in the French capital in February too.

As for Montpelier’s Millésime Bio, which was been pushed back from January to the end of February, Lameyse said it may have been postponed by two weeks, but it is “still happening”.

He also said that France is currently experiencing a “peak” with Omicron, which means that “in one month from now we should be in good shape, so not doing a show when we can is a mistake,” he said.

More generally, he expressed his opinion that now was the time to re-instate physical events as the world “learns to live with Covid”.

“I’ve talked to buyers everywhere, and they told me that they are getting used to Covid, everyone seems to have had it, and it’s everywhere now, there’s not a greater chance of getting it in London or Paris, Berlin or Madrid, and people want to have a face-to-face discussion,” he said.

“At the start, we said that Covid would last for four months, and then be over, but it has been two years now, and we have had Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and then Omicron, so what’s going to be the next one? So my point to the shareholders [of Vinexposium] is that we have to expect to live with Covid, and we don’t know for how long, and now is the time to resume activity for our clients to see the buyers again.”

He also assured db that all visitors to the French capital are free to attend the show, bars, restaurants and so on, as long as they have a vaccination pass, while there is no quarantine for foreign travellers.

Finally, he said that the show would be bigger in scale and stand numbers than the last fair held in Paris, which was in early 2020, with this year’s event around 15% larger in terms of floor space, with a 10% increase in exhibitors.

“We have lived under constraints for two years, which has made organising tastings and promotions a nightmare for all of us, but for the first time in two years the real world starts again; business is open for real people, in person,” he stated.

  • Vinexpo & Wine Paris will be held at the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles on 14-16 February
  • All visitors to the show will need to show proof of vaccination
  • While British citizens are currently prevented from travelling to France unless they have a “compelling motive”, this restriction is expected to be lifted within the next two weeks.

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