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London Wine Fair 2021 will be 100% digital

Published:  21 January, 2021

Organisers of the London Wine Fair (LWF) have discarded hopes of running a Covid-secure physical event and have now confirmed a virtual only schedule.

The decision was taken in light of the ‘on-going uncertainty’ around the Covid-19 pandemic, organisers said, with virus mutations, transmissibility and travel restrictions all making a physical show untenable.

The organisers are now promising the most ‘advanced digital show of its kind’, with the format offering significant cost saving for exhibitors.

“In December we were very confident that a live event would be possible,” Hannah Tovey, head of the LWF, said. “Everything was looking extremely positive at that stage and the Association of Event Organisers (AEO) was advising that live events could safely take place from early 2021. But just one-month on, there is now just too much uncertainty and we cannot be confident in delivering a safe and meaningful live event.”

She confirmed that contingency plans had been place for 2021, so that the entire event could switch to either a hybrid one or fully digital as necessary.

“We have had to keep an open mind on this,” she said.

At the beginning of January, Harpers spoke to Tovey about the intention of going ahead with a hybrid event, combining both live and digital elements.

Plans are now underway to scale up these digital capabilities, with the show’s Bottlebooks database currently being used to implement an immersive event which will allow attendees to engage both on a one-to-one basis and in larger groups.

Exhibitors will have access to a virtual stand, which can feature imagery, tasting notes, news of launches and access to bookable 121 meetings, with added upgrades allowing exhibitors to send out samples to specific visitors.

The virtual layout will replicate the live event, with virtual “rooms”, featuring Industry Briefings, Seminars and Masterclasses covering subjects such as Brexit, Covid-19, Climate Change, and recovery strategies for the on-trade.

Tickets for visitors will cost £20 and will give access to all three days.

Thanks to the sizeable savings on the price of virtual stands and visitor access, the management team is expecting more exhibitors to take part.

“From discussions with our exhibitors and visitors, it is clear there is a real appetite for the 40th edition of the London Wine Fair to go ahead. Whilst the 2021 show is not the live event we all hoped could happen, we are extremely confident that we can deliver a Fair which will be an essential forum for the drinks industry. Taking place towards the end of a global pandemic and at the beginning of the UK’s departure from the EU, and with international trading more complex than ever, it will be an invaluable platform for business, knowledge gathering and contact building,” Tovey said.