Hanover, Germany - The continuing spread of Covid-19 coronavirus around the world cast a shadow over the 20th staging of the annual Tire Tech Expo, being held 25-27 Feb in Hanover.
On the opening day, the expo halls were some markedly quieter than at last year's show, with some major exhibitors reporting declines of 70-90% in the number of visitors to their stands.
As well as the expected absence of Chinese visitors and exhibitors, Tire Tech was hit by news, in the preceding days, of major outbreaks of the virus in South Korea, Iran and, closer to home, Italy.
The subsequent escalation in concern about a possible global pandemic led many multinational companies to suddenly impose blanket bans on travel by their staff.
Among the the major companies to block employees from visiting Hanover was ExxonMobil, which was listed as a sponsor for this year's Tire Tech show..
The impact of the global scare was less obvious in the Tire Tech conference rooms, including for a nearly full opening-session introduced, as always, by event founder Tony Robinson.
"I normally open our conference by thanking people for coming from all over the world, but inevitably, this year we have lost some of our friends," the CEO of Tire Tech organiser UKI Media acknowledged.
"Personally, I don't think any of us really knows what the coronavirus really means and what it might be able to do," added Robinson. "But it has meant that people have not been able to travel, not least from China."
"We have also lost other (attendees) as companies have put in place unilateral travel bans [on their employees],* he further pointed out.
On a brighter note, Robinson went on to welcome the many high-level speakers and attendees to Tire Tech 2020, including those who had been at the event since its launch 20 years ago.