An important economic factor: The third restart of the fair

Status: May 29, 2022 09:33

After two difficult years, the exhibition industry has the courage to start over. The Hanover Fair is the beginning of the fair summer. The tourism and gastronomy industry is also hoping for a new boost.

author: Notker Blechner,

Finally, the trade fair again: The self-proclaimed “trade fair city” of Hanover is getting ready for the wave of visitors who come to the Hannover Messe industrial fair. Tens of thousands of overnight guests are expected in hotels, guesthouses and private accommodation. Industrial fairs are an important economic factor. It generates millions of euros of added value.

This income has not materialized in the last two years. Because in 2020, the Hannover Messe had to be canceled for the first time due to the crown pandemic. And in 2021, the leading industry fairs were held only virtually.

70 percent the fair has been canceled since 2020

In Germany, around 70 percent of fairs were canceled in 2020 and 2021. The trade fair association AUMA speaks of an economic loss of 55 billion euros due to the crown pandemic.

It was the worst post-war crisis for an otherwise spoiled industry. Sales fell from over four billion euros to 1.2 billion euros in the year. Almost all exhibition companies have turned red. Some had to be backed by local and regional public shareholders. The federal state of Hesse and the city of Frankfurt helped the Frankfurt trade fair company with fresh equity capital of up to EUR 250 million.

Even this year, the exhibition industry started very slowly. Out of 140 events scheduled for the first quarter, only around 20 were allowed to take place, most of them in March. According to the AUMA trade association, only about half of the approximately 40 planned fairs were held in April.

Economic factor EUR 28 billion a year

Trade fairs are still an extremely important economic factor for cities and regions. According to AUMA’s calculations, trade fairs in Germany before the pandemic brought an annual economic contribution of EUR 28 billion. “Up to 230,000 jobs depend on the German exhibition industry,” says a spokeswoman for AUMA. In addition to the organizers of fairs and fair construction, these are the hotel and catering industry, crafts, services and logistics, transport, trade, as well as the advertising and creative industries. Business tourism is developing especially among trade fair and congress guests. Hotels carry out a large part of their activities with trade fair guests during non-holiday periods. The visitors to the fair are also used by local gastronomy drivers and taxi drivers.

Trade fair cities such as Hanover, Frankfurt and Berlin are now hoping to do good business with generous visitors. However, the effect is likely to be temporary. Because more than half of the fairs will be held this summer. Some of them were postponed from spring to now due to restrictions related to the crown. And: Fearing the re-emergence of new infections in late fall and winter, many companies sped up trade shows. Therefore, the market summer will provide many cities with only positive economic impulses in May, June and a little bit in July.

Multiple trade fair dates at the same time

Exhibitors and visitors are spoiled for choice. The world’s largest environmental fair IFAT in Munich and the IMEX business travel fair in Frankfurt take place at the same time as the Hanover Fair. Later in June, E-World in Essen runs alongside Analytica in Munich.

Despite the return of the industry in the future, the fair will not be the same. “We are preparing that the trade fair will be smaller in the future,” explains Deutsche Messe AG CEO Jochen Köckler. Trade fair companies should no longer focus on maximizing exhibitor stands and the number of visitors. “Thinking about square meters is outdated,” says Wolfram Diener, head of Messe Düsseldorf.

Hybrid concepts prevail

In some cases, hybrid concepts are also likely to prevail. It was already visible at the German convention of internists. The event was held in attendance in Wiesbaden. Willing people could also follow the conferences practically from the country or from abroad.

According to a survey by Messe Frankfurt, 70 percent of customers surveyed would like an analog trade show and 27 percent a hybrid show. Only 3% would like purely digital fairs. The vast majority of customers want the fair to be a personal meeting, explains Frankfurt fair manager Wolfgang Marzin.

The music fair in Frankfurt is disappearing

Not all fairs are likely to survive this change. The Frankfurt Music Fair has already fallen victim to the crisis. After more than 40 years, the fair, where instrument manufacturers, musicians and industry visitors met, is closed. The organizers justify the decision with the lack of an economic perspective. Gerhard Meinl, the president of the Association of Musical Instrument Producers, spoke on the contrary from a strong impact. As a small consolation, this year in Paulskirche, Peter Maffay was awarded the Frankfurt Music Prize.

Even the future of the Berlin IFA is uncertain. According to media reports, the IFA consortium is currently arguing with Messe Berlin over a new contract. In the event of disagreement, the radio fair could be moved to Frankfurt or Munich.

The Association calls for blank checks for the fair also in winter

In order to avoid a new crisis in the exhibition industry in late fall and winter, the industry association AUMA demands a kind of free ticket from politicians. “Lawmakers must now ensure that the trade fair can also be held in the coming winter months – and without any restrictions on access or capacity,” explained Philipp Harting, CEO of AUMA. Instead of bans, there must be “principles of fair feasibility” and instead of upper limits, hygiene concepts. “Otherwise, we will be talking about the trade fair half-year that should be forgotten” – he emphasized. “We can no longer support another wave of closings.” The industry can’t handle it again.

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