At the AWISA Ltd board meeting on Friday 6 March the decision was made to postpone the AWISA exhibition planned for 1-4 July 2020.

The reasons all relate to coronavirus.

The board considered the health and safety of visitors and the staff of exhibiting companies. It is clear that in Australia the coronavirus is only in its early stages, and on the basis of the experience in China and other countries it still has many weeks or months to run its course.

Normally an AWISA exhibition has a combined attendance in the order of 12,000, both visitors and exhibitors. At the moment, such gatherings are allowed but that may change. Then there is the subject of the confidence that people may have in planning travel in 15 weeks time. This confidence is already suffering.

AWISA has never been in the business of running half-hearted exhibitions. The association did not hold an event in 2010 because of the GFC, and the board feels that the circumstances today have similarities. In the board’s view, the shows that followed 2010 were far stronger than if a diminished 2010 exhibition had taken place.

Then the board considered the effect of coronavirus on the woodworking industry worldwide. Three of the key countries that contribute products to AWISA exhibitions are Germany, Italy and China. All have cancelled or postponed exhibitions in the last few weeks.

Many AWISA members are experiencing difficulty sourcing products from overseas in time for the planned July dates. Especially China where factories have been shut for weeks. Worldwide, there are shortages of components and of shipping containers, and in some cases products are not allowed to be moved within, or out of countries.

There is also the problem of getting technicians and product specialists to travel to Australia – all essential to the running of the exhibition. Some companies and unions in Europe have banned international travel. Such travel is also currently uninsurable. Many major AWISA exhibitors bring between 10 and 25 technicians and other staff to the show. All of them are essential to the running of a show of AWISA’s size.

This decision has not been taken lightly. It is not a panicked or hysterical reaction, but a business-like reaction to what is actually happening in other parts of the world, and to what is highly likely to happen in Australia.

The board is bitterly disappointed that this decision has had to be made. AWISA 2020 was close to being sold out. Discussions are being held with the venue regarding dates a few months later than originally planned.