The Specialty Equipment Market Association continues to plan for an in-person 2020 SEMA Show, but organizers also are watching a spike in coronavirus cases in Las Vegas and working on a virtual element to meet the demand of international attendees who may face travel restrictions.
Chris Kersting, CEO and president of SEMA, and Tim Martin, chairman of the SEMA board of directors, provided an update on the show, which will feature the Global Tire Expo - Powered by TIA, to the association’s members on July 23 as part of the group's annual membership meeting, which was held online. It was an update to what Modern Tire Dealer learned in May during a SEMA Wheel and Tire Council meeting.
At the outset, Martin said, “Our staff is meeting regularly with Las Vegas officials to monitor the situation and adjust our plans.”
SEMA will be gathering the feedback of its members in the coming days via a survey.
“I want to assure all of you that the SEMA staff and board were mindful that the COVID landscape is constantly changing and we’re interested to know what the industry is thinking,” Kersting said. The member survey will ask the industry to weigh in on the current show plans and outlined safety measures, which include a requirement that all wear face coverings.
“We’ll also be asking you about some alternative ways we can set up the show.”
Martin said, “Our top priority of the show this year is the health and safety of our industry members and staff.”
Kersting said registrations from exhibiting companies “is currently about 75% of a normal year, which I think is surprisingly strong.” He said buyer applications continue to roll in, as well.
“The SEMA Show will no doubt be different this year,” Kersting said. “COVID safety measures that we can deliver for the show, we see that as a way of making sure that business value is delivered safely.
Kersting and Martin also addressed questions from attendees. And while some focused on issues and events unrelated to SEMA’s upcoming events, here’s a look at what was on the minds of members as it relates to the 2020 SEMA Show:
Q: When will SEMA make a final decision on whether or not the show will go on?
Earlier this year the organization set a Sept. 1 cancellation date for exhibitors. Up until that day, Martin said exhibitors can cancel without penalty and receive a full refund. That date “gives us an idea of whether our exhibitors are still committed to the show. We do not have a lot of cancellations. We have pretty strong support from our exhibitors at this point in time, but ultimately our ability to have the show in November in Las Vegas is going to be affected by the local government officials.
“They ultimately have a say in that and the convention center officials in Las Vegas are working with us. We’re meeting with them regularly to assess the changes. It’s a constantly evolving situation so we’re working on that.
“If we can get assurance from those officials and continue to plan, we’re going to obviously do that. If we don’t feel comfortable we’ll do our best to give as much notice to our exhibitors as possible. (We) certainly anticipate having that assurance by September.”
Kersting noted that members have made it clear that the SEMA Show in November and the PRI Show in December in Indianapolis are “really important annual business events for our member companies. Folks are as interested as ever in trying to have the events just as SEMA is interested in trying to make sure they come off.
“I think it’s really incumbent on us to figure out how we can deliver that great business meeting in a safe manner. We’re working on it.”
Q: Will exhibitors lose their seniority if they cancel?
The answer is no.
Martin said, “The board of directors voted in March to reduce the risk for exhibitors. They will not lose seniority if they decide to cancel due to COVID. Furthermore, if SEMA cancels the event due to government intervention, same story; there would be no impact to people’s seniority. If for some reason the event were to be canceled, fees would be returned. We’re doing the best we can to reduce the risk for our members.”
Q: Do you expect the 2020 SEMA Show and 2020 PRI show to occur at their respective venues?
“We do expect that. It’s obviously been challenging because of the constantly evolving situation with COVID,” Martin said. “Right now Las Vegas is going through a bit of a spike. Hopefully that’s going to subside and we’ll get back to a really great, favorable trajectory. We still have three months ‘til the show. We’re working on it constantly.
As for the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Trade Show, Martin said, “The situation in Indianapolis is more favorable. They have a better state of affairs with regard to COVID and their government is farther along on their reopening policy. And we have a little more than four months to that event. That particular event I think we’re in great shape - if (things) don’t really turn negative. The convention center is very confident we’ll be able to have that event.”
Kersting added that it’s possible the virus picture in Las Vegas will turn around. He pointed to the recovery of New York as a reminder of how a dire situation has evolved to a recovery and reopening.
Q: Due to COVID-19, will SEMA be limiting international attendance?
Martin said SEMA is allowing registrations “from anywhere in the world.” But international visitors would face travel limitations from their home countries, as well as the regulations set up by the U.S. federal government. “We don’t know what wil be possible, but that is limiting international registration particularly.”
Kersting added, “One of the things we’re looking into very strongly, and that I expect we’ll deliver, is relevant to that matter of international participation, is being able to have a virtual aspect to the SEMA Show.
“This year we may not have some of the international folks be able to attend, but they may be able to participate virtually, and I think that will give that demand some way to be satisfied. That’s something that’s in the offing as we’re going down the road.”