A Maine company that organizes trade expos all over the world, including a major seafood event in Boston this month, has had to adjust to growing concerns over coronavirus.

Of the 172 exhibitors from China who had planned to attend the Seafood Expo North America/Seafood Processing North America event from March 15-17, 149 have pulled out.

Although disappointing, an official from organizer Diversified Communications of Portland said there will still be more than 1,100 exhibitors in attendance, and she expects the event to proceed smoothly.

“In producing global events, we’re always focused on things that could impact the event, so we know to expect the unexpected, especially when you have people coming in from so many different countries,” said Liz Plizga, group vice president for Diversified Communications.

Organizers recently adopted a “no-contact, no-handshake policy” for the event at Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in accordance with guidelines from the World Health Organization

Plizga said staff members at Diversified Communications, which employs 200 people in Maine, also have been communicating updates regularly to exhibitors and expected attendees.


Similar communication occurred for participants of other events organized by the Maine firm, including Vinexpo New York this past weekend and for another global seafood expo in Brussels in late April. For all future events, Plizga said the company will continue to monitor updates from WHO and other agencies and implement changes if needed.

“It’s hard at this point to determine what additional measures we might need,” she said.

Diversified’s U.S. operating division produces 24 annual conferences and exhibitions each year and manages online trade publications and magazines as well. Last month, the company acquired the United Kingdom’s leading trade show for the aquaculture industry and will organize its next event in mid-May in Scotland.

The annual seafood expo is one of the company’s signature events and draws exhibitors from all over the world.

Plizga said exhibitors and attendees have inquired about protocols for the upcoming event in response to the coronavirus but said no one is alarmed.

Still, Diversified’s U.S. president, Mary Larkin, has had to respond to rumors that the expo might be canceled as “simply not true,” according to Seafood Source, one of its publications.


“It is our obligation to maintain opportunities for people to meet wherever possible,” Larkin said. “Small and medium businesses in all industries in particular depend on exhibitions. And, like all types of events, they support the economy worldwide.”

Danny Alva, sales director at the Del Pacifico Seafood Group of Mexico, told Seafood Source that he plans to attend the show even though some have dropped out.

“We’re looking forward to it, and I think it’s very important to our business,” he said, adding that the majority of his business’s focus is on North America. “We actually made our booth larger this year by adding 20 feet of space.”

In addition to the no-handshake policy, organizers have worked with the convention center to ensure that common areas and surfaces are disinfected throughout each day. There also will be signs encouraging regular hand washing as well as medically trained public safety staff on site.

Plizga said that although coronavirus is unique, Diversified has a history of adapting to a variety of public safety situations, including hosting an event in Brussels in April 2016 only a month after suicide bombings killed 35 people and injured 300 others.

“We’re always learning about how to adapt to situations,” she said.

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