Starting with the cancellation of the Geneva Motor Show last February (the event was scheduled for early March), auto shows dropped like flies around the world due to the coronavirus epidemic. We haven’t seen one take place since.
This week, however, the Bangkok Motor Show in the Thai capital has just gotten underway, after being postponed twice due to Covid-19 fears. How is this possible? Thailand has been one of the most successful countries in the battle against the coronavirus, something organizers pointed to with pride as the show opened.
Thailand has been free of locally transmitted cases of Covid-19 for about seven weeks and has eased restrictions on movement and gatherings in an effort to boost its economy.
"This is more than the motor show, but also Thailand's reputation because the other event organizers will be watching," said Prachin Eamlumnow, general manager of the event, which is officially named the Grand Prix International.
Thailand is the first country to host an auto show of this magnitude since the beginning of the pandemic, he told reporters. The Southeast Asian country is an important regional centre of automobile production. Its previous motor shows have drawn more than a million visitors.
Organizers have pledged to limit crowds this year and to control entry to the exhibition space. A total of 25 car brands, including Ford and Subaru, as well as 22 motorcycle manufacturers are on hand to display their wares.
Each automaker's display stand has entry and exit points, and visitors must scan a QR code with their smartphones as they enter and exit. This is quite a contrast with usual shows where visitors are allowed to move around freely.
Kiosk staff will also be wearing masks or face shields during the show, which runs from July 15 to 26.
"The government allowed us to hold it, but we still must be very careful," said Prachin Eamlumnow.
Many eyes will be riveted on the Bangkok show to see how it all works out. Governments and event organizers will want to see what steps to emulate – and, perhaps, what mistakes to avoid - as they prepare to hold their own events, pandemic conditions permitting.