After the cancellation of last year’s in-person show, Metstrade organizers are looking to this fall’s event — scheduled for Nov. 16-18 at RAI Amsterdam in the Netherlands — as a reunion of the global recreational boating industry. And the industry has responded in droves, led by European Union and North American companies. At the time of this writing, the event was nearly sold out, with some companies placed on a waiting list as organziers worked to accommodate them.
Soundings Trade Only spoke to show director Niels Klarenbeek about plans for the event, the precautions organizers are taking in response to Covid-19, the event’s packed schedule and what’s new for 2021.
This year’s show marks a return to the RAI facility after last year’s all-virtual event. What has the response been like?
We are very pleased with a solid exhibitor landscape of over 1,300 exhibitors who are currently allocated in our temporary floor plan for this year. And we even have a waiting list of more companies who wish to be a part of the event. Currently, we have slight capacity problems, but we do anticipate that we will be able to accommodate most of the companies that wish to be there.
All preparations for this year’s events, from our perspective, as far as we can control, look very good. We have a solid exhibitor landscape. We have many of the traditional factors of the Metstrade show which are part of the DNA, like the breakfast briefing, the DAME Awards and the Boat Builder Awards. And we even completed an entire content scheme for our new initiative, Metstrade TV.
What should visitors and exhibitors expect in regards to Covid protocols at the facility?
First and foremost, it’s elementary to say that we aim to have a safe and successful event, and that we will not compromise on any of those criteria. If it cannot be held safely or successfully, we will definitely need to call off the events. And of course, we do not hope to be in that situation, but how would we ensure the safety of our exhibitors and visitors? We have a solid health and safety protocol at the RAI Convention Center. And for the upcoming Metstrade show, we will ensure a physical barrier around the halls of Metstrade outside. There will be Covid passport checks at the entrance gates — we are going to create a green zone outside, in front of our convention center, where the E.U. digital corona passport is going to be checked. It is currently in an app, which is issued by the E.U. governments. All E.U. member states have equivalent apps with equivalent QR codes that allow us and our security staff to do the check. By November, we anticipate that the app will also be available for travelers from the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and all other non-E.U. countries.
You get in with a corona passport into the green zone. From there, you’re getting to the main gates of Metstrade. Once you’re in, you’ll be having your lanyard and your badge, the same as [previous visitors] are used to. Inside, we have conducted a network of safety corridors in all the halls of Metstrade — every single hall, we will have at least a set of safety corridors. Those will be a bit wider aisles to ensure elegant flow of the foot traffic. And hand sanitizer will be available.
We are also going to implement a no-handshake, no-contact policy. So we are going to advise all exhibitors just to stick to the [fist bump] or the elbow [bump].
What about face coverings?
Face masks are not mandatory, but we do very much respect any individual who wishes to wear one. So in general, we’ll have a strong and secure admission policy to ensure a safe environment. It is highly advised to have to arrive fully vaccinated. But those who have not had the full vaccination yet, they will be enabled to be directed to one of the Covid test centers in Amsterdam where they could obtain a Covid test, and as soon as they can prove a negative test result, they will be admitted to the show floor.
You had also hinted at changes to the floor plan. Can you elaborate?
For this year’s show, we have a different layout than the usual events. We have reduced the total footprint of the show because we took away Halls 9, 10 and 11. But we also condensed the area which we do have. So it will now all fit in [the Europe Complex, Halls 1-7 and Europe Foyer and Elicium]. That allowed us to work with one set of floor plans from March onward until the upcoming November, which reduced the number of alterations on our end to make it possible with scarce resources to make the planning happen.
But that came with [changes] in terms. For instance, the Superyacht Pavilion. The Superyacht Pavilion used to be allocated in Halls 9, 10 and 11, and now they will be having the benefit of being in one larger area, all together. On the individual-exhibits level, the new layouts have had quite an impact, though every Metstrade 2021 exhibitor has received their allocation letter with a clear message that no rides can be derived from this year’s location into future events. Next year, we will be back at the usual configuration.
You mentioned Metstrade TV. That’s a new component this year.
We have experimented with it [last December] with Metstrade Connect. It worked really well, and we got lots of positive feedback on that event. For this year’s event, we wish to continue on the same routes and to further develop the concept. We have asked our anchorwoman, Pernille La Lau, who did a one-day program from the RAI studios last year, to stay on for the full duration of the show. Her studio is going to be moved to a strategic location in Hall 6, right on the show floor. We will be airing multiple television programs for the full duration of the show hours. This can be watched live, of course, while you’re at the show from your own device, but also from your office or your home office.
All those programs will be available on demand on our network after the events. We are very excited about the new program and to work together with the Metstrade media partners. And I’m happy to say that your publishing house is one of them. So whether it’s Soundings Trade Only or Professional BoatBuilder magazine or Marina World, the Superyacht Group and ICOMIA, we are working together on set programs.
It looks to be quite the robust schedule.
We have a diverse range of a variety of topics to serve all aspects of the show floor. The initiative for this year replaces the various theaters we have had in the past. Metstrade had several theaters on every aspect of the show floor where lectures took place and speakers were having panel discussions and all of that. We envision for this year’s events that the visitors will have business and networking as their prime focus. With Metstrade TV, we have asked our media partners to select their very best content from the topics of the stages and bring that into a condensed program.
What about the awards ceremonies?
The DAME Design Awards and the Boat Builder Awards for Business Achievement are both very prestigious prizes. I would really encourage anyone to enroll in those two competitions because it’s going to be a fun aspect of the show. And it’s very impactful to those who have the honor of winning a category or an entire award. From past winners, we can only learn their positive feedback about the impact it meant to their businesses.
Over the years, Metstrade has taken a big stand on sustainability and adopted the need for sustainable products. This year, the jury wished to further inspire the industry … on sustainable design. To that end, we have created an additional segment within the DAME Awards competition on sustainability. All applicants will be asked for their sustainability endeavors. And apart from that, our jury will look for those products to comply in terms of the greenest and the most sustainable. With such a big platform of Metstrade — and with trade media eager to learn about this year’s competition — we feel that we can make another big push toward the topic of sustainability.
Metstrade 2021 is going to be a hybrid event with, on the one hand, an in-person show. And on top of that, with recordings from our very own live studio, right from the show floor, we will be airing plenty of panel discussions and talk shows. We are quite thrilled with what’s here in front of us.
Another takeaway is, of course, we need to be very cautious looking into the developments toward the health and safety of our audience — the pandemic situation, how it evolves in the upcoming months. And based on that, we will further define how the event is going to be conducted. But I wish your readership to be assured that by all means, it’s going to be a safe and successful event. And we will not compromise on that.
This article was originally published in the September 2021 issue.