The COVID-19 pandemic isn't just a health crisis, it's an economic one as well. It didn't spare any industry as companies are either letting their people go to cut costs or are simply closing up shop. The effect on all industries has been devastating, to say the least.

But if there is one sector that has been hit the hardest, it's the live events industry. Mass gatherings are not allowed, and no live events can happen. You can't hold concerts, charity events, or anything that involves thousands of people gathered in one venue. And yes, this also includes motor shows.

For the past couple of months, highly anticipated motor shows and events have been canceled due to the ongoing pandemic. The first to be canceled was the 2020 Geneva International Motor show, called off just days before its doors were supposed to be opened to the public. It set off a chain reaction, as shows and events months away have been postponed or out-right canceled too. Well, that’s except for the upcoming 2020 Bangkok International Motor Show. Against all odds, they are still pushing through later this month, but I digress.

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Closer to home, the Manila International Auto Show (MIAS), which was originally scheduled to take place last April, was initially postponed to a later date. However, organizers later announced that the show has been canceled completely. Other motoring events scheduled this year have also been postponed, namely the Philippine International Motor Show (PIMS) and Trans Sport Show (TSS). Even if the organizers wanted to push through, it's simply impossible at the moment. The World Trade Center is currently being used as a quarantine facility.

The outlook then seems bleak, and there might not be any motor show held this 2020. But what about future motor shows? To get more answers, we talked to none other than Tradeshow International president, Sophie Delos Santos.

For those that don’t know, Tradeshow International is the organizer of the annual Trans Sport Show and the Manila Auto Salon (MAS), two of the longest-running motoring events in the country. To give you guys an idea, the TSS has been held annually since 1992. Meanwhile, MAS (formerly Custom Car and Sport Truck Show) has been held yearly since 1995.

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We learned a lot about our conversation with Sophie regarding organizing motor shows and events with her years of experience. From all the nitty-gritty details to the difficulties of organizing and getting the necessary permits just to hold these events, Sophie shared it all. One thing that we agreed on is that the auto shows that we have all come to know and love will change.

According to Sophie, who tentatively plans to hold MAS and TSS together this coming November, there are various ways to implement a new normal at auto shows. One certainty is that booths cannot get crowded, be it because of car show models or sale items. The number of people entering the venue will also be limited as well. Expect to see more marshals to enforce distancing measures too. Also, exhibitors will be more spaced out to implement social distancing.

The possible effects? Fewer participants might take part as there is less space for a booth. There will likely be fewer visitors to events such as motor shows as the fear of the disease is still around, not to mention the number of infected cases continues to rise nearly daily.

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While there might be fewer participants and attendees, it isn't stopping Sophie from having ideas for MAS and TAS to push through as safely as possible. Some of these include opening the doors of the venue to let fresh air circulate. One idea she is considering is having people in the venue for only a limited time. This way, visitors won’t hog the showroom floor and will allow other show-goers to take a look at the exhibits as well. Think of it as something similar to tours at a facility.

While most automakers have gone for digital shows, Sophie says nothing can replicate the full motor show experience. Car shows are a sensory experience, she says, and virtual shows just can't replace the feeling of getting up close and personal with vehicles. Considering TSS and MAS are also competition events, it would also be impossible to judge vehicles just from submitted photos as well. A no-spectator event is out of the picture too. To say there's nothing like the real thing is a sentiment we both agree with.

For those of you wondering when the next car show in the Philippines will take place, it is still uncertain. However, we were told that SM Events currently has TSS and MAS pencil booked for November, which does fill us with optimism. Should the government lift the ban on holding mass gathering events by November, a two-in-one TSS and MAS even could push through with additional safety measures in place. If not, then we won't see any motor show this year.

Interestingly, Sophie told a trade show is still scheduled to take place this coming September. If that pushes through then it should be a good sign for both TSS and MAS.

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At the end of the day, the future of auto shows and other events lies with the government. For as long as quarantine rules are in place, big events will simply not happen. Sophie told us there's also the matter of securing permits for holding large events from local government units (LGUs) too. It is not as easy as just renting a big space and letting people in. More paperwork. More legwork.

Unfortunately, there is still no vaccine for this deadly virus just yet. The number of infected from COVID-19 is increasing daily, which doesn't fill us with confidence either. With the way things are going, let's be realistic here. We don't think any auto show will take place this year if we're being blunt about it. The earliest event will likely take place in 2021. 

If a motor show or similar event does push through later this year, it does beg the question, "Who will be going?". While we're certain there will be attendees, it's rather risky at the moment. Ask yourself this: Am I willing to risk my health to look at cars? Surely, that's a question on the minds of many if they want to head to a car show.