A new trade show designed to connect buyers with suppliers from the Balkans region is to go head as a virtual event, organisers have confirmed.

New Deal Europe was due to take place in London in March but was postponed to October 5 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

With uncertainty over whether business events will be allowed to take place by that date, organisers have now decided to run it virtually and extend its reach.

Tine Murn, the event’s co-founder, said: “We have decided to continue with a virtual event, which gives us the opportunity to make the event bigger, taking it to a global audience.”

Joint co-founder Robert Dee added: “Operators are planning for 2021 now, and some are already booking business, so this is the key time to make deals.

“From speaking to operators we know that while much of the business being placed is carried over from 2020 bookings, some bookings are brand new, as operators look for new and safe destinations.

“Long-haul operators are having a hard time right now, so they are switching to destinations nearer home, and the Balkans is ideal for them, with its mix of resorts, history, culture and sustainable activity breaks.”

Suppliers from the UK & Ireland welcomed the move. Andrea Godfrey, general manager of Eastern Europe specialist Regent Holidays, said: “I am delighted to see that the cancelled New Deal Europe Balkan workshop will be reinstated. I am looking forward to catching up with our existing partners and, of course, discovering new destination and exciting experiences.

“Regent has a longstanding history with the Balkans, from our group tours to Albania in 1971 to our first foray into Kosovo in 2009. There’s so much more to be inspired by and to learn about the diverse countries that make up this incredible region.”

Daniela Wagner, group business development director of Travel Weekly parent Jacobs Media Group, which is the fulfilment partner for New Deal Europe, said recent experience showed the value of virtual events and marketplaces.

She said: “There is still considerable uncertainty surrounding travel plans and restrictions, as well as on how events can be run safely. Moving New Deal Europe to a virtual platform allows us to ensure that all suppliers and buyers can take part, regardless of their location, and increase the scale and effectiveness of the event with a tailored appointment-matching system.”

Jennifer Tombaugh, president of US-based operator Tauck, said: “Tauck is delighted to participate in the New Deal Europe event with potential new partners and old friends from the Balkan region.  As we look to restart our operations in Europe, we know our trips to this area are precisely what our guests are seeking:  safety, natural beauty, cultural enrichment and off-the-beaten track gems.  It’s exciting to look ahead, and this forum provides exactly that.”

Alan Lynch, managing director of Travel Escapes in Dublin, added: “It’s fantastic to see Robert and his team creating positivity with this event. As a leading specialist to the Balkans from Ireland we are looking forward to participating. I think it’s a great initiative and opportunity to ensure our product is right for our market.”

In addition to B2B meetings, New Deal Europe will also feature conference-style sessions, including a presentation on the results of market research commissioned by the organisers, and undertaken by The Times, into readers’ perception of the Balkans as a destination.

Dee said: “This should certainly help tourist boards to target their marketing more precisely and ensure that their squeezed budgets are spent on the right things.”