German trade fairs generate growth. Experts estimate the overall economic production effect at approximately 23.5 billion euros – almost the equivalent of the 2011 budget of the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development. Through the organisation of events alone, trade fairs secure approximately 226,000 jobs. All that is made possible thanks to Germany’s leading role on the global trade fair market.
Every year brings up to ten million visitors to the 150 international fairs in our country, where upwards of 160,000 exhibitors introduce their latest products and technologies. Germany is the world’s number-one trade fair country. Two thirds of the most important international fairs are held here. The offering encompasses all industries – from traditional German strong points such as automotive and mechanical engineering to IT and telecommunication to books and art. With 20 per cent of international visitors – and even 30 per cent when it comes to professional visitors from abroad – the global structure of the German fair market is a prominent feature and also an important success factor.
The business-to-business sector utilises more than 10,000 conventions and conferences as communication platforms, which are attended by about 2.5 million people. The numerous regional specialist and consumer trade shows totalling a national exhibition area of 2.75 million square metres represent a valuable addition. Trade fairs bundle innovation power, drive ideas forward, and actively participate in shaping the global trends of the future – three prominent facts that will continue to secure Germany’s role as the worldwide leading trade fair location in the future.
However, it is communication that is the engine of success: the interconnection between exhibitors, visitors and fair organisers is unique here and allows for event concepts that are right on the pulse of the time. For, fairs nowadays must be much more than just exhibitions offering product comparisons. That is an offer already largely provided by the World Wide Web. It is especially the personal contacts between organisers, exhibitors and visitors that make a fair successful and turn it into a trend barometer for the industry.
Furthermore, accompanying platforms such as conventions or symposiums are part of the core programme and largely contribute to the success of German fairs. There, economic, scientific and political experts present research results and future perspectives, which provide visitors with new ideas.
For over 60 years, the HANNOVER MESSE has been a good example of a successful concept and the global appeal emanated by German fairs. The concept of a multitude of international trade fairs creates synergies for both visitors and exhibitors. Innovations in similar industries are often only one hall away and multiple trips are not required – smart efficiency applied to fair visits. Surveys show that specialisation and depth of the individual trade fairs in combination with the general overview of industrial innovations at a site are much appreciated by professional visitors: a wide variety with depth is what is sought and can be found in Hanover.
With its partner country concept, the Deutsche Messe highlights a different nation every year; after this technology event, which is the most important worldwide, participants travel back home with full order books and incoming orders in the billions. With its partner country presence at the fair, Korea achieved an order volume of approximately 1.7 billion US dollars and vastly expanded its business relationships. Successful fair work is supported by the Internet. However, it would be wrong to want to offer contents there. The strong point of a fair lies in the creation of individual contacts and relationships. Deutsche Messe AG now does that on the Internet as well. We enrich our millions of visitor data records with additional personal information, which allows us to segment customer groups. This makes contacts interesting to companies and creates the perspective of new sales. Offer and demand meet in that way, enabling qualified business contacts.
What has proven successful in Germany, the fair country, offers great opportunities on international markets. International branding is the magic word. Fair brands are exported abroad, allowing German fair organisers to open up new markets. Automechanika Istanbul, DOMOTEX Middle East, and CeBIT Australia are examples of the export of successful event concepts abroad. In turn, that strengthens the German economy, as many an exhibitor will sooner or later also come to the original fair and bring new ideas along.
For that purpose, Deutsche Messe AG has the appropriate staff. 850 people, organised into eight international and five German subsidiaries, are active in over 110 countries in the world. They have a strong network at their command and lay the foundations for successful events. Moreover, exhibitors are already actively involved in the planning of the fair during its preliminary stages. In that way, the established visitor interests are channelled straight into the plan.
What is more, fairs have long been giving a boost to the job market. For job seekers and potential employers alike, this is an ideal opportunity to learn to know each other in a practical environment. Both sides can present themselves casually and establish personal contacts. Especially with younger people, the spark of enthusiasm – the cornerstone of professional careers – is often ignited by experiencing high-tech products and innovative technologies.
Now, what may the future hold for the fair market? Real trade fairs will always be around. However, the shape of exhibitions will change due to the ever-increasing interconnectedness of people through the Internet and the rapid further development of technical know-how.
Simulations and state-of-the-art presentation technologies will allow companies to continue to stir the enthusiasm and interest of fair visitors. Especially firms whose products are hard to represent, such as in the energy, aviation or communication industries, can profit from employing virtual technologies. Those can contribute to making their achievements more understandable and experienceable.
However, replacing physical events with virtual worlds remains an unrealistic scenario. For, trust and customer loyalty require personal contact to form – and trade fairs accomplish that particularly well. The representative survey by the Association of the German Trade Fair Industry (AUMA) about fair trends among 500 German companies confirms that: following the corporate website, participation in fairs is the next important instrument in the marketing mix.
Moreover, futurologists predict a shifting of the global offer and demand flows. In coming years, AUMA estimates that demand on the Asian and Eastern European markets will rise significantly. That is already reflected in developments of the gross national products of certain countries.
For instance, with CeMAT Asia in Shanghai, Energy India in Mumbai and CeBIT Eurasia in Istanbul, the fair market as a whole and Deutsche Messe AG in particular are well prepared for such a growth impulse. In coordination with local colleagues, those events are being adapted to specific cultural and economic requirements and continually developed. Coincidentally, the new contacts give rise to valuable synergy effects for the German fair business.
Hence, the present and future of the fair economy look very promising. The multi-faceted and dynamic communication and marketing platforms of the trade fair location of Germany will remain a significant catalyser for the domestic and global economies – and continue to generate
The author is CEO of Deutsche Messe AG. Following a bank clerk apprenticeship and law studies, he started his career as assistant to the president of Deutsche Bundesbahn, Heinz Dürr. In 1996, he assumed managerial functions at DB Cargo AG. After a period with the company Berlin Partner GmbH, he returned to the railway company in 2003 and was chairman of DB Regio AG regional management until he joined the Deutsche Messe AG.