Perhaps a sign that the world isn’t quite ready to come out from under its Covid-19 cloud, the leaders of the massive electronics technology trade show, IFA-Berlin, announced the event held annually in September has been canceled “as a physical live event as originally planned.”

“The world’s leading trade show for consumer and home electronics will return in 2022,” Messe Berlin and gfu Consumer & Home Electronics GmbH jointly announced Wednesday, adding that “IFA 2021 will not take place in September as a physical live event as originally planned.”

The statement said the decision was made following “detailed conversations with public health experts and multiple stakeholders. Ultimately, several key global health metrics did not move as fast in the right direction as had been hoped for – from the rapid emergence of new Covid-19 variants, for example in South Asia, to continued uncertainties about the speed of the rollout of vaccination programs around the world.”

The groups said this situation had added “uncertainty for the companies that were committed or interested in coming to Berlin, as well as media and visitors – all of whom have to plan well ahead with regards to budgets, investments and travel – not just for IFA, but all similar events around the world.”

Another factor was said to be “the fact that Messe Berlin continues to support the fight against Covid-19 by converting parts of its exhibition area into a vaccination center and an emergency hospital facility; both are now likely to be required for longer than originally anticipated.”

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“Innovation needs a platform; it needs the focus of global attention. That’s why brands and manufacturers across the tech industry were very keen to come to IFA Berlin 2021. Unfortunately, the latest public health developments introduced too much risk into everybody’s planning for the event,” said Kai Hillebrandt, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of gfu Consumer & Home Electronics GmbH. “There simply are now too many uncertainties. Therefore, right now it has become near impossible for anyone to responsibly plan their participation in any trade show.”

“We did not take this decision lightly. IFA Berlin is arguably the most important event of the year for brands and retailers alike. IFA Berlin connects our industry with trade visitors, media and real consumers like no other event. However, the health and safety of everybody has to be absolutely paramount. The efforts to contain this pandemic – from the roll-out of vaccination programs to the resumption of international travel – did not happen at the pace we had hoped for. Given these developments, this difficult and disappointing decision was inevitable,” said Martin Ecknig, the CEO of Messe Berlin.

Interestingly, the announcement added that preparations for Berlin Photo Week at ARENA Berlin and SHIFT Mobility “are continuing as planned.”

The statement gave no details regarding if, when or how IFA 2021 might take place as a virtual event.

“The organizers of IFA are now working with their partners from industry, trade and media to get everything ready for IFA 2022, which will be held as a full-scale live event at the Berlin exhibition grounds.”

What remains to be seen is if IFA Berlin’s decision will have any influence on similar trade events around the world. The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) has already announced that CES 2022 in Las Vegas would take place as a physical trade show with a virtual option in January.

Also slated for September, and typically just after IFA Berlin, is the Custom Electronics Designers and Installers Association (CEDIA) show, planned to take place this year in Indianapolis Convention Center. That event remains slated to take place Sept. 1, 2021 – September 3, 2021, with the caveat that “we will adapt and change our plans as recommendations become available, to limit potential spread most effectively.”

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By Greg Tarr

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