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Photokina 2020 canceled due to COVID-19, will return in 2022

What was to be the première of the Imaging Innovation Conference is now another victim of COVID-19: photokina 2020 the first of the new annual calendar of the show, was cancelled.

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Planned to be held 27 to 30 May 2020, photokina is postponed, as the information from Koelnmesse GmbH indicates, as the show’s new date is 18 to 21 May 2022. Will it ever return?

We all knew it was coming, and when Provideo Coalition started to write the news about the consecutive cancellations of events, I asked if photokina 2020 was really going to happen. Back in February a calendar date of May seemed a safe timing for an event, but as the COVID-19 pandemic expands, we’ve seen how event after event is cancelled, postponed or moved online, in the cases it is possible.

Now, confirming rumors from recent days, photokina is cancelled, or postponed as the organizers said. After intensive consultation, Koelnmesse GmbH has decided to cancel the show, originally planned to be held 27 to 30 May 2020, stating that “the next instalment of the leading international trade fair for photography, video and imaging will be presented from 18 to 21 May 2022.” This means that the Imaging Innovation Conference will not be celebrating its première in 2020 as originally planned, created to introduce a new annual event instead of a show each two years, the original format.

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No events until the end of June 2020

In general the management team of Koelnmesse has decided not to organise any own events on the part of Koelnmesse until the end of June 2020. This decision is supported by the crisis management team of the City of Cologne, which also recommended in its meeting on March 18 to cancel the trade fairs during this period.

As Europe enters a lockdown and travel between EU countries is limited, so does the situation in Germany advises against large gatherings. The agreement reached on March 16 between the German federal government and the governments of the German states – laying down common guidelines for dealing with the coronavirus epidemic and explicitly including the general closure of trade fairs and exhibitions. This impairs the planning security for Koelnmesse and the participants of the trade fairs in Cologne far beyond the scope of the current scenarios. With this early announcement, Koelnmesse wants to give its exhibitors and visitors planning security.

photokina001-2Planning for photokina 2022

The decision not to host the next edition of photokina until May 2022 was made, states Koelnmesse “with in view of several factors: even before the appearance of the coronavirus, the imaging market was already subject to strongly dynamic movements. This trend will now gain momentum and must be factored into plans for the upcoming photokina. Added to this is the fact that our customers’ resources are already under heavy strain in 2021 – as a result of general economic trends as well as rescheduled events on the global trade fair calendar. The orientation towards 2022 gives everyone involved time enough to design the next photokina with an eye to the needs of the market, and of our exhibitors and visitors.”

Kai Hillebrandt, Chairman of the Photo Industry Association [Photoindustrie-Verband e.V. (PIV)] said: “It goes without saying that PIV completely stands behind the decision taken by Koelnmesse to cancel photokina 2020. The health of exhibitors and visitors is top priority at the moment. As the conceptual sponsor of photokina, we will do our utmost to assist the Koelnmesse with the planning of the next edition of photokina.”

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A much smaller event

One important element in this decision is, no doubt, the size of the announced photokina 2020 – Imaging Innovation Conference première: the number of pavillions occupied, looking at the plans for the show, suggests that participation was not very high. According to information distributed by the organizers earlier, “based on the current status of exhibitor applications and forecasts for the coming weeks, photokina will take place in halls 3.1, 3.2, 4.1, 4.2 and 5.2.” It is a much smaller space than photokina from its heydays. When I started to visit the show, more than 30 years ago and it would occupy, then, all the pavilions (see plan of the Koelnmesse). Early 2000s, when I last visited the show, it was already a smaller event.

The Internet and the ease of access to information online contributed to make photokina and similar shows less important. What was once the most popular photography show on Earth lost importance in recent years, and in 2017 the organizers announced the biennial trade show would become annual and be held in May 2019. They were forced to cancel the 2019 edition, for various reasons, and the 2020 edition was the première of the new format, already suffering from a lack of interest from exhibitors. The coronavirus may be the last blow to the show. Due to the changes the world is going through, I wonder if we will see a photokina in May 2022.


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Journalist, writer and photographer since 1979, both print and online, with a vast experience in the fields of photography, software, hardware, web, aviation, History, video games, technology, having published content in almost all Portuguese newspapers…
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