RAI Amsterdam looking to reopen—could social distancing measures help the exhibition experience?

Amongst all the troubling reports populating our news feeds in the last couple of months, finally, a positive story has emerged from the Netherlands:

The RAI Amsterdam convention and exhibition complex is looking to open its doors in the not-too-distant future for a series of test events.

While RAI’s management are confident a reopening is possible, they’ve made it clear they will only do so if all guidelines regarding social distancing can be followed.

Because of its sheer size—the RAI extends over 110,000sqm—the management team are satisfied that the public will be able to visit the complex and enjoy the exhibitions at a safe distance—with minimal risk. If garden centres and DIY centres are permitted to open, there’s no reason why the RAI can’t, too. That’s CEO Paul Riemen’s thinking, anyway.

The RAI is prepared to trial a series of measures that will enable visitors and exhibitors to be brought together this summer; a clear and comprehensive plan of action that will help the convention centre get back—safely—on its feet.

This is certainly an encouraging development. While it’s great to hear that important institutions like the RAI Amsterdam are finding ways to cautiously reboot, we couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps the exhibition experience might not be improved by these social distancing measures. 

Foot traffic is the lifeblood of any museum or art gallery, but with the public being encouraged to keep plenty of space between themselves, would it not also encourage visitors to take their time and view each exhibit, without the hassle and pressure of a large crowd surging through the complex?

Visitors will have all the time and space they need to properly engage with each display—to truly appreciate that stunning  piece of artwork— without worrying they’re getting lost in the crowds. A silver lining, perhaps, in these challenging times.

Indeed, it seems like most people have a somewhat half-glass-empty view of the exhibition industry at the moment. With the understandable skepticism and anxiety surrounding mass gatherings, people are rightly concerned as to how these events can restart safely and visitors can be encouraged back through exhibition hall doors again.

The exhibition industry is a major contributor to the UK economy and provides thousands of jobs—and these events can still be profitable, if the organisers can make the most of the ever-changing conditions. With relative easing of social distancing measures, it won’t be too long before exhibitions are allowed to open again. The question is how.

The answer might be to allow attendees to move around in small socially-distanced groups or bubbles at set times. Each group would be able to view the exhibits undisturbed and unhurried in their full glory. If the stands are well-designed and interesting, it would give the museum or gallery a much better chance of catching the attention of the visitor.  Rather than viewing the stand from across the aisle with rows of people between you and the attendee, you would get the chance to pitch to them directly.

Talking time and space would perhaps be limited—and those enjoyable meetings back in the bar would be off-limits, but that will come over time! 

We are social creatures by nature, so people want to occupy these spaces together, meeting friends, colleagues and making new acquaintances and business contacts—all of which is of great benefit to the exhibition sector, the economy, and country as a whole.

Talking time and space would perhaps be limited—and those enjoyable meetings back in the bar would be off-limits, but that will come over time! 

We are social creatures by nature, so people want to occupy these spaces together, meeting friends, colleagues and making new acquaintances and business contacts—all of which is of great benefit to the exhibition sector, the economy, and country as a whole.

Creative Solutions have worked with many different museums, art galleries and exhibition centres over the years. We pride ourselves on being able to offer a multitude of display products and design configurations to fit any environment. From banner stands, modular displays and wall graphics to plinths and portable counters—we’ve got every base covered. Let’s just hope that more institutions like RAI Amsterdam start opening their doors soon and we can continue to provide our high-quality exhibition products for these events.

Posted on July 7th 2020

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