The two-day Vinexpo New York 2020 opened as planned on Monday at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, but a degree of uncertainty hangs over the event as to whether coronavirus-related travel restrictions and growing American caution over contact with European visitors will dampen attendance.
Officially, the word is no, and the organisers, Diversified Communications, have addressed the virus issue in the “safety” section of its website: “We… are monitoring the situation regarding the novel coronavirus, both in the U.S. and internationally. The current situation has not impacted attendee and exhibitor registration, and we look forward to a successful event.”
While not releasing pre-registration figures, the organisers report this year’s signups are “in line with 2019” when 3,000 wine and spirits professionals, mainly from the U.S. and Canada, attended the second consecutive year of the conference. The 266 exhibits, however, are down from the about 400 reported for 2019.
Among the 30 counties exhibiting, country or regional pavilions are being hosted by Spain, the Czech Republic, Brazil, Italy, Georgia and, from France, Champagne, the Rhône Valley and the Loire Valley.
The event’s main areas of concern regarding the virus include travel restrictions in Europe, Italy especially, imposed by either the governments or by individual companies on their employees. A number of importers and communications companies in the U.S. have announced cancellations by touring European winegrowers of unrelated annual spring media and marketing events scheduled in the U.S. during March and April.
“We know we had some drop-off on our recent Slow Wine tour because of the coronavirus,” says Gino Colangelo, president of Colangelo & Partners. The Italian Trade Commission in New York declined comment.
In addition to the two days of exhibitions, Vinexpo NY, now in its third consecutive year, will also have several topical conference sessions, master classes and by appointment one-on-one meetings. A newer addition to the program is “The Buzz,” five sessions for attendees over the two days to provide knowledge exchange, group discussion and networking with a focus on current events, issues and trends impacting the U.S. beverage alcohol market.
The Buzz will cover topics such as laws and distribution, tariffs, spirits and consumption trends.