The Baselworld team would like to express its sincere support to the whole community and its stakeholders in these very difficult times we are all facing. The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on our lives and on the world economy. Events are being cancelled or postponed worldwide to contain the global outbreak. For the watch industry, the most important events hit are the two major trade shows: Baselworld and Watches & Wonders.
Organising an event of the scale of Baselworld involves a team of 25 persons working all year round, along with internal and external partners for planning, coordinating, building, marketing, etc. This means substantial financial commitments that began long before the event itself. The closer you are to the show date, the higher the costs incurred. By the time the crisis began to unfold, Baselworld was just a few days before setting up the fairgrounds and the major portion of the expenditures in preparation for Baselworld 2020 had already been made.
An article released by Le Temps reveals that the exhibiting brands are threatening MCH, the organizer of Baselworld, to leave the fair if they do not obtain a full refund. It is important to note that this letter sent to MHC is signed by Hubert du Plessix, who is not only the head of the exhibitor’s committee but also a Rolex top-tier manager (Chief Investment Officer).
Their letter to Baselworld mentions “Failing the refund, we fear that this will be the outright end of Baselworld, all the more so as the dates chosen in January 2021 are not suitable for the jewellery, stones and pearls sectors, and that coordination with Watches & Wonders (ex-SIHH) no longer exists.”
The costs incurred with the cancellation of the event would amount to CHF 18.36 million. It is difficult to calculate which costs might be covered by insurances. While events are covered by insurances in case of cancellation, what is actually covered may vary and some insurers may exclude communicable diseases from their policy.
According to the Baselworld regulation, the organization is not obliged to refund the costs incurred, but in this challenging environment, Baselworld is very conscious of the stakes for all exhibitors and is absorbing a significant portion of costs due to postponing the show by offering to carry forward 85% of the fees for Baselworld 2020 to Baselworld 2021 (the remaining 15% will serve to partially offset out-of-pocket costs already accrued). If needed, exhibitors can alternatively request a cash refund which will be of up to 30% of the fees, with 40% carried forward to Baselworld 2021.
Michel Loris-Melikoff, Managing Director of Baselworld, comments: “We are all in this together and that is why we are committed to supporting our exhibitors as best we can in these turbulent times. We are offering unprecedented conditions, which go far beyond contractual obligations (general terms and conditions) and are much more generous than the vast majority of similar European shows that had to be cancelled or postponed. It seemed essential to make these significant financial efforts. I wish for all of us a return to business as soon as possible.”
Baselworld has also informed the Basel Hotel Association and strongly enjoined them to show their commitment to supporting exhibitors by offering terms and conditions that are adapted to these extraordinary circumstances. We don’t have to forget that Baselworld means 80,000 visitors, including thousands of retailers, end customers, journalists and enthusiasts. While the brands will not be able to meet all their partners physically this year, the postponement of the show encouraged the Baselworld team to further pursue its strategy to digitalize the community in order to make it active all year round. The launch of a new digital global platform is due to go online before summer.