Regarding interpack 2021 – Andrew Manly’s open letter to Thomas Dohse

Is it irresponsible to hold interpack 2021 in February?

interpack 2021
Thomas Dohse project director of interpack since beginning September Photo interpack

We are taking the liberty to publish Andrew Manly’s open letter to Thomas Dohse, the project director of Messe Dusseldorf regarding his concerns on persisting with the interpack 2021 exhibition. This is a widespread concern for many exhibitors and visitors around the world as the Covid-19 pandemic persists and flares up in Europe. In addition, at the moment, although the rules change according to circumstances and reciprocity, Germany is not allowing visitors from China, India and the USA. – Editor

Dear Herr Dohse,

The question currently is simple: Should interpack go ahead next February? Cases of Covid-19 are exploding through Europe and many other parts of the world again and governments are slamming on the brakes and restricting travel, social and business gatherings, etc. So is it irresponsible to even consider holding an event of this nature early next year?

While Messe Dusseldorf has been making confident statements about its hygiene plan — with the motto PROTaction – Back to Business, it does not seem to be considering the fundamentals of running a huge global machinery fair. You point to the recent experience of Caravan Salon which ran successfully in September. But is this comparing apples with apples? This is not just about Germany.

The Salon is a largely German affair with a straightforward build up involving comparably few contractors. On the other hand interpack is a highly complex build up, requiring engineers, electricians, lifting and stand building contractors, plus caterers and security staff, to work in close proximity for many days. Then the stand personnel arrive and, of course we would hope, the visitors. These contractors, engineers, stand staff and visitors will be expected to come from all over the world, from every continent. Really?

Are we really expecting Chinese, Indians, Americans, Japanese, Koreans, Russians, Africans and Arabians, even those from other parts of Europe, to flood into Dusseldorf for 10 days prior to the opening and then another week beyond that? Even if they are allowed to travel by their governments, companies may take a dimmer view of putting their employees at risk or facing long quarantines.

My own experience is that many of my fellow journalists are either definitely not coming or are being told they cannot come. Also, there is a major event in Japan the same month which could mitigate against attendance from many parts of Asia. No country has completely opened its borders and currently almost everywhere has fresh restrictions as Covid-19 cases rise again.

Mostly, every packaging event has been ‘postponed’, ‘re-scheduled’ or, more honestly, canceled until its next scheduled date in the calendar – for example, Pack Expo International in Chicago will not now happen again until 2022. Many other shows now have new dates well away from Spring 2021. This has been a difficult decision to make, particularly for smaller organizers. But it does seem responsible and generally, exhibitors are supportive.

We all enjoy meeting at interpack. Whether there is still a need for such a huge and expensive event in the packaging calendar is a debate for another day. But the early 2021 date could mean a very much smaller event in every respect and therefore of less value to everyone. So would it not be better for Messe Dusseldorf to take a responsible and statesman-like position and look forward to welcoming everyone to a fully functioning show in 2023? We are all stakeholders after all.

As a veteran of almost every interpack since 1974 until the present day, it gives me no pleasure to make these observations. But the industry needs certainty in an uncertain world and, in my personal opinion, postponing until 2023 would be the best way to achieve that. Messe Dusseldorf must consider what is best for the industry, both economically and strategically.


Andrew Manly
Past Publisher, Editor, Show Organiser and currently Freelance Commentator on Packaging Technologies
18 October 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

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