UPDATE 12th March 2020: Montreal Audio Fest is now postponed. An email to exhibitors reads as follows:
Although we approve this wise decision, it is with sadness that we welcome the decision of the Government of Quebec to limit or ban public gatherings of over 250 people in Quebec until further notice.
We all invested time and money in this project and just like you and the visitors we were really excited as we approached the Audiofest.
It is too early to say whether the event will be postponed or canceled, we are working with the Bonaventure hotel to see the remaining possibilities for 2020.
A decision will be announced by the end of the month and it is at this time that we will discuss the terms of reimbursement if necessary.
Thanks for your trust and confidence.
Sarah and Michel”
It’s been a bumpy few weeks for hi-fi show organisers, their exhibitors and would-be attendees. On February 28th, Germany’s High-End Society cancelled their 2020 Munich event, citing health and safety concerns over the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Infections in Europe were on the rise and the High-End Society acted early and decisively.
The very next day, JDEvents, organisers of Chicago’s AXPONA, reaffirmed that their April 2020 event would go ahead as planned. At that time, only a handful of coronavirus infections had been confirmed in the USA.
Two weeks later and the USA is facing a much higher rate of infections with New York declaring a state of emergency. Understandably, JDEvents yesterday announced that they would be postponing their event until August 7th – 9th — apparently, the last remaining free weekend in the Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel & Convention Center’s calendar. According to the company’s statement (see below), the decision to postpone was taken after careful consideration of ongoing ‘community’ feedback.
JDEvents’ announcement coincided with a media briefing from the CDC: the coronavirus situation in the USA had apparently worsened to a point that people over 60 were being advised to stock up on food and medication and avoid any unnecessary trips out of the house. Were it still pressing ahead with its original mid-April dates, AXPONA’s attendance numbers would have undoubtedly been impacted by the CDC’s new advice. As anyone who has ever been to a hi-fi show will tell you, a significant portion of the audiophile community is made up of men in their six, seventh and eighth decades.
And yet, AXPONA’s revised dates might yet pose a fresh challenge for hi-fi show exhibitors if the coronavirus threat abates in the USA and Asia. AXPONA’s final day will overlap with the first day of the Hong Kong AV Show, currently scheduled to run August 9th – 11th at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The clash will force many of the world’s bigger hi-fi companies to make a choice: AXPONA or Hong Kong. The former might be the USA’s largest audio event with 9,000 attendees but the Hong Kong AV Show attracts 28,000 people, many from mainland China, and is seen by many manufacturers as crucial to their ongoing sales success in Asia.
In Canada today, Salon Audio doubled down on their commitment to the 2020 Montreal Audio Fest, due to take place 27th – 29th March at the Hotel Bonaventure.
Citing a much lower incidence of Coronavirus cases in Canada (than the USA) as well as advice from PHAC (Canada’s CDC), an official statement issued via Salon Audio’s Facebook page reads:
“Our event will only be cancelled if our government decides the situation in Quebec has worsened to the point of being declared an “Act of God” and, as a result, cancels all public events. This seems extremely unlikely. In the event it happens, we promise to reimburse everyone. We will not, however, reimburse for cancellations of any other nature, since exhibitors’ rooms are reserved and paid for and the hotel will not refund us outside of “Act of God” cancellations by the government.”
You can read the full statement below but if the USA and Europe’s experience with the coronavirus’ spread – and AXPONA’s U-turn – tells us anything, it’s that two weeks spent trying to organise an audio show against the backdrop of a
possible global pandemic is fraught with unpredictable risk.
If the virus situation worsens in Canada, an eleventh-hour cancellation from the Montreal show organisers might undo much of the goodwill accumulated since they rescued the show from the Chester Group’s last-minute withdrawal in 2016.
Following the cancellation of several events in the USA, Europe, and Asia dues to coronavirus fears, please allow us to present to you the following:
1- The Montreal Audiofest remains on schedule for its March 27th to 29th run, 18 days from now. Rest assured that Canada is neither in the throes of a panic over the coronavirus, nor has the virus infiltrated Canada’s borders to the extent it has in other countries. In fact, Quebec has only four reported cases of the virus, none fatal, making it one of the safest places to travel to.
2- There is a difference between perception and reality. The reality is that some major events in the USA are being cancelled not entirely for safety reasons, but because insurance companies are now refusing to cover them.
3- The Montreal event is not international by nature. It does not cater to a market from Europe or Asia. 93% of the event’s attendees are from Canada.
4- During the event, Hotel Bonaventure staff will regularly clean and disinfect door handles, escalator rails, bathrooms, and other public areas. Hand sanitizers will be available throughout the show floors. There will also be a trained professional on the premises to test people’s body temperature for signs of a fever. All adequate measures will be in place to ensure your health, despite Health Canada’s assurance that transmission of the coronavirus is low.
As of March 9, 2020: “The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has assessed the public health risk associated with COVID-19 as low for Canada. Public health risk is continually reassessed as new information becomes available”.
5- Our Montreal Tourism Association works closely with all hotels and convention centers to keep us informed of any new developments. Public events are still happening and on schedule, our schools are open, and our airports are monitoring passengers from specific countries upon their arrivals.
6- Our event will only be cancelled if our government decides the situation in Quebec has worsened to the point of being declared an “Act of God” and, as a result, cancels all public events. This seems extremely unlikely. In the event it happens, we promise to reimburse everyone. We will not, however, reimburse for cancellations of any other nature, since exhibitors’ rooms are reserved and paid for and the hotel will not refund us outside of “Act of God” cancellations by the government.
7- Attendees are registering every day for the show. We still expect a strong turn out.
We ask that you please still join us. Our industry needs to promote itself, and the Montreal Audiofest offers a safe environment in which to do it. If things continue the way they have, it may be the last consumer audio show in North America for a while.
Should you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us.
Our finest regards
Sarah and Michel”
Stay safe, everyone.