NBAA is ramping up on preparations for its first live in-person convention to be held since the pandemic took hold last year—the 2021 NBAA-BACE—with the exhibitor application priority deadline coming up on April 16 and 60 percent of space already booked, association executives said during a webinar on Tuesday.
Chris Strong, senior v-p of conventions and membership for NBAA, said the feedback NBAA is getting for the October 12 to 14 event in Las Vegas is “the timing is right” and that “we are optimistic we will be in a position to have a very safe show.”
While Las Vegas has become a biennial location for the association’s hallmark event, it will have a new look this year because the convention will be housed in the $980 million West Hall expansion that added 1.4 million sq ft of conventional space, including 600,000 sq ft of exhibit floor space that will enable the entire show to be housed in a single hall.
Previously, NBAA exhibitors had been split between the North and Central Halls in Las Vegas. This year, that space concurrently will be occupied by a different convention staged by the National Association of Broadcasters.
Strong was encouraged by the early responses to this year’s convention following the toll that the pandemic has taken on in-person events. All the major exhibitors are returning, he said, adding that a handful of OEMs are preparing to “make a big splash,” including with mockups that will be brought on display.
As in past years, the static display is planned for Henderson Executive Airport about 13 miles south of Las Vegas.
Meanwhile, some 87 percent of those responding to an earlier attendees survey said they would return to live events when the pandemic eases, 75 percent said they do not anticipate travel restrictions at that time, and 90 percent said the rollout of vaccinations was giving them confidence. NBAA plans to follow up with a subsequent survey in upcoming weeks.
Also new this year is a sustainability pledge that is in the works. Strong noted that that trade shows are “notoriously not sustainable” but that NBAA was hoping to take a leadership role by creating a pledge for participants to meet certain sustainable goals. Certain initiatives surrounding that are still being ironed out but could include reduction in the use of paper, use of recycling, or managing food to eliminate waste. Strong said such a program would not be mandatory and he expected that exhibitors might meet some of the goals initially but build on that in future years.
NBAA is planning the event in accordance with prevailing health and safety guidelines and expects more details on those as the event nears. Given that “It’s a bit of a moving target at this point,” Strong expects that some of those guidelines will be posted about 100 days out. The biggest challenge, he said, is on the international side and working through issues to help enable attendees from outside the U.S.
Dr. Matt Friedman, the medical director for CrowdRx which is helping NBAA manage the health and safety protocols, said no decision has been made at this point about related guidelines for show attendees. Strong indicated that health and safety guidelines are likely to be released in the July timeframe.