The organisers of the Bologna Children's Book Fair have confirmed the event is due to take place in person this year, but will offer exhibitors a 100% refund if it has to be cancelled again.
Strict health and safety measures, such as temperature taking and mandatory mask-wearing, will be in place and attendees will need to "ensure their vaccinations are up to date" to enter the fair, which takes place from 21st–24th March, coinciding with a rearranged Shanghai International Children's Book Fair.
Elena Pasoli, Bologna's exhibition manager, told The Bookseller that the fair will follow the Italian government's instructions "to the letter", adding: "Italy is at the vanguard of Covid safety measures and our implementation is among the strictest at international level, with protocols that guarantee maximum efficacy."
She stressed that organisers "really do not want" to cancel an in-person event again but retain their policy from 2020, guaranteeing all exhibitors a 100% refund if the fair is called off. She said: "Right from the start of the pandemic, in 2020, when we were the first to announce cancellation of a book fair, we have guaranteed all exhibitors a full 100% refund of everything paid to date. For those who decided to roll over their participation fee to the next edition, we additionally ensured a significant discount on the rates for exhibition space. We can confirm that this is policy for 2022."
Asked about numbers attending, Palosi said it was too early to say but added that there had been a "pleasing level of interest" so far.
She said: "We know, through our ongoing dialogue with exhibitors, that there is continued enthusiasm to participate in this year’s fair. It is too early, in this constantly changing global picture, to predict usefully the number of delegates. Watch this space."
Looking ahead to the fair's long-term goals, she said the Bologna team had been "delighted" with its partnership with Shanghai Children's Book Fair "despite the challenges of the past two years" and said "it has continued to be a fabulous extension to BCBF". Organisers had also been pleased with the first BolognaBookPlus, an event aimed at the general trade organised by former London Book Fair director Jacks Thomas, though Pasoli said this did not mean a change in strategy.
She said: "Taking both BCBF and BBPlus on our Grand Tour 2021 was also a great chance to showcase publishing content to audiences in Guadalajara, the UAE, France and Germany. Our overall strategy remains constant: to work with talent and make the most of global opportunities as they present themselves. BolognaBookPlus is one such great opportunity and, despite the lockdown last year, we were really pleased with the response to our soft launch. The Bologna and UK teams collaborate very effectively and Jacks Thomas and I are enjoying immensely working together."