Pandemic wreaking havoc on international exhibiting

Uncertainty abounds about the series of world stamp exhibitions managed by the Fédération Internationale de Philatélie (FIP), according to a recent statement from the Swiss-based philatelic group.

Responsible for international exhibiting, the FIP has more than 80 member countries, including Canada, that are eligible to enter its world stamp exhibitions. But with widespread travel bans, event cancellations and social-distancing measures, the COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on the international exhibiting scene.

“Due to the rapid spread of the Coronavirus since it began in December 2019, almost all of our members are in lockdown of some type or another,” said FIP President Bernie Beston in a statement issued March 26 on behalf of the federation’s board of directors.

In mid-March, London 2020 – originally scheduled for this May and with more than 70 countries slated to participate – was postponed until Feb. 19-26, 2022.

“The two largest expenses were the venue, the Business Design Centre (BDC), and the DoubleTree Hotel group,” said Frank Walton, chair of the London 2020 organizing committee. “The contract with the BDC allowed us to re-schedule the event with no cost penalty, or to forfeit the substantial fee. Had we forfeited, then quite simply the organizers would have gone bankrupt as it could not have refunded the booth holders or the exhibitors.”

The “only choice,” Walton added, was to reschedule, although he admits it was “not easy to find a new date.”

“The BDC is normally booked up several years in advance, and an international stamp exhibition requires all the floor space for a 12-day period. There were simply not gaps in the bookings until 2023.”

The Philatelic Traders Society – a British dealer’s association that organizes the biannual Stampex shows – “came to our rescue” and offered any of their future booking dates to allow London 2020 to be rescheduled.

The “substantial deposit” for hotel bookings – the other major challenge – will be rolled over until the new dates, said Walton, who also invited people to submit concepts for a redesigned London 2022 logo via chairman@london2020.co.

While Indonesia 2020 is also postponed from August until Nov. 5-10 of this year, Bulgaria 2020 was cancelled as a state of emergency was declared in the Balkan nation.

“The borders have been closed, activities of state institutions and public organizations have been suspended or minimized almost to rock bottom level,” said Spas Panchev, president of the Union of Bulgarian Philatelists, who added public-health officials in Bulgaria are expecting cases of COVID-19 to peak in that country in September.

“Only food stores, bank offices and branches and pharmacies operate in the country by now. The activity of restaurants and hotels is blocked.”

Ecuador’s Exfigua 2020 – a Federación Inter-Americana de Filatelia (FIAF) exhibition with FIP sponsorship – has also been cancelled by organizers.

Another upcoming FIAF exhibition with FIP sponsorship is St. Pierre and Miquelon’s SPM Expo, which is postponed (although new dates are yet to be announced).

The 38th Asian International Stamp Exhibition, Taipei 2020, which is held under the auspices of the Federation of Inter-Asian Philately (FIAP) – a continental organization – with FIP recognition is postponed from this October until June 4-8, 2021.

Other postponed FIP-sponsored exhibitions include the Federation of European Philatelic Associations (FEPA) event Tarvisio, in Italy, that’s now scheduled for June 10-13, 2021, and Bangladesh’s Banglapex, whose new dates are forthcoming.

FIP CONGRESS

The 76th FIP Congress is also postponed and will “most likely be rescheduled,” according to Beston, for Nov. 10 of this year.

“The FIP board shall review the global situation and … decide by July 2020 if the exhibition and the congress can proceed as planned.”

The FIP’s latest Jury Academy, which was scheduled to take place in London, England, with 30 trainees later this month, is also cancelled.

“The essence of the course is ‘continuing professional development’ so that exhibitors receive a more consistent and fair evaluation,” Beston told CSN last November. “From this course we shall refine some of the more positive aspects of exhibitor feedback.”

In his statement this March, he added: “Our priority is to ensure that all philatelists and stakeholders continue to stay safe and healthy. We do implore you to restrict your movements and travel until the world returns to normal.”

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