Milan's Salone del Mobile has revealed plans for a digital version of the fair amid rising concerns over whether the rescheduled September event can go ahead.
Fair organisers last week called on the Italian government to give a series of assurances that will allow the event to take place from 5 to 10 September.
"Everyone wants to go to the Salone for business but also to rediscover that socialisation which has been lacking so much in these very hard and painful months of the pandemic," said Salone del Mobile president Claudio Luti.
"But it is essential that the institutions give us precise answers. We are waiting for certainties from the government."
Go-ahead dependent on government decree
In a press release published last week, Luti urged the government to set out a path that will allow the event to go ahead when it issues its next ministerial decree on the pandemic, or DPCM, on 6 April.
He asked the authorities for clarity on the vaccination programme, health passports and the resumption of international flights, as well as the holding of trade fairs, which are currently banned.
"We will only be able to confirm [the fair] if the DPCM on 6 April gives a green light for fairs to take place," Luti said.
"It is essential we get a certain date for the restarting of trade fairs in the next DPCM, but also a definition of the vaccine plan and a realistic timetable to achieve levels of vaccination that will allow Italy to be considered a safe country to welcome foreign visitors," he said.
He sought clarification of the EU's proposed "digital green certificates," which could be used to ensure that fair visitors are virus-free.
He also called for a major international campaign to promote the fair, which has in the past attracted over 300,000 people to the northern Italian city.
Digital fair platform under development
Luti's plea came as a surge in coronavirus cases in Italy together with delays in the country's Covid-19 vaccination programme cast doubt on the viability of holding the giant fair, which is the world's biggest and most important furniture show.
Hundreds of fringe events collectively known as the "fuorisalone" have been planned for September to coincide with the rescheduled Salone del Mobile. It is expected that these will go ahead even if the main fair is cancelled.
In an interview with Interni magazine, Luti revealed that Salone del Mobile is working on a digital version of the fair.
"After months of analysis and comparisons – which saw both the internal structure and the best professionals in the sector work closely together – we are developing a new digital platform capable of supporting the event and the companies that will take part in it," he said.
"The new digital platform will create a potentially infinite space and extend it beyond the fair season."
Most architecture and design events impacted by pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt the global architecture and design events calendar. Most events have either been cancelled, postponed or dramatically scaled back.
Last month, Sanna Gebeyehu of Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair told Dezeen that the pandemic would have a long-term impact on large design fairs.
"The old way of producing a physical fair is gone," she said. "Fairs need to be alive all year round in different ways."
"Really big fairs will perhaps not exist in the long run," added Gebeyehu, who is product and concept owner at Stockholmsmässan, which organises both the annual fair and Stockholm Design Week.
"It's maybe going to be smaller physical events, working hand in hand with the digital."
Photography is courtesy of Salone del Mobile.