Trade fairs are a key driver of international trade in goods and services. They are important marketing instruments in B2B communications and they intensify competition and trade in nearly all economic regions around the globe, ensuring growth and jobs. Economic globalisation and an increased orientation towards brand names are additional factors promoting the worldwide importance of these sector-specific marketplaces. In the process, trade fair organisers are developing into marketing partners for businesses in ever more comprehensive ways.
The trade fair spectrum covers everything from special exhibitions for nearly every sector in highly developed countries to universal exhibitions in developing countries. According to data from the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI), there are around 1,200 exhibition venues and 31,000 exhibitions a year worldwide. They offer a combined hall space of more than 34.8 million square metres – or the equivalent of 460 football fields. Around 4.4 million exhibitors and more than 260 million visitors gather at these more than 31,000 exhibitions a year. Germany accounts for 10 per cent of the world’s trade fair market.
The functions of trade fairs
Of all marketing instruments, trade fairs have by far the broadest range of functions. They directly affect business administration, national economies and society as a whole.
Trade fairs serve to establish and maintain customer relations, find business partners and personnel, and position companies as a whole. As test markets for new products, they are also market research instruments. They enable companies to raise name recognition levels, analyse competitive environments and prepare to sell products and services. Just visiting trade fairs can pay off for young companies, for example in the early stages of entering markets.
Trade fairs benefit their exhibitors and visitors, but also the economies around their host cities and even their respective states and countries. They generate strong secondary effects, especially for the hotel, restaurant and transport sectors. They are also very beneficial to companies that provide valuable services to trade fair organisers and exhibitors, in fields such as stand design and construction, logistics, translation and interpreting, and hosting. Regional economic effects can be five to sevenfold the sales for organisers, especially if the exhibition venues have a strong international focus. Trade fairs therefore ensure many jobs in their regions, particularly for medium-sized companies.
Trade fairs have always been centres of knowledge – of information that is prepared, cultivated and placed in helpful contexts. As our society becomes ever more knowledge-based, information has become a crucial resource. Producing, selecting, filtering and channelling it has thereby become one of the most important activities of national economies. As a result, ever more conferences are being held in conjunction with exhibitions, and vice versa, as vibrant and immediate ways of conveying knowledge.
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