Trade fair participation in times of Covid-19 pandemic
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Trade fairs are by far the most important instrument in B2B communications. This is one of the main reasons why the exhibition business is one of the leading service sectors in Germany. It encompasses all companies, associations and persons that organise fairs or provide services for organisers and exhibitors. The sector also enjoys a high status internationally.
In the year before the start of the Corona pandemic, German trade fairs once again posted a respectable result, despite a weakening economy and relatively low growth in foreign trade. Overall, however, the 163 international and national trade fairs of 2019 achieved a stable result compared to the respective previous events. Exhibitor numbers grew by around 1.2%, while exhibitor stand space increased by an average of 0.8%. The number of visitors fell by just under 2%, essentially due to the development in the automotive sector.
To judge by its revenues, the German exhibition sector is a major player not only in Germany but also internationally. Five of the world’s ten highest-grossing trade fair companies are headquartered in the country. Sales in the trade fair sector have increased steadily for the past fifteen years, nearly without exception. In 2019, trade fair organisers in Germany achieved a turnover of around 4.1 billion euros despite a smaller trade fair programme, thus remaining at the previous year's level.
According to the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI), there are around 1,200 exhibition venues worldwide and 31,000 exhibitions a year. Germany accounts for nearly 10 percent of the world’s exhibition market.
Twenty-five venues for international or national trade fairs in Germany have a combined hall space of around 2.8 million square metres. Ten sites each have capacities of more than 100,000 square metres, and five additional sites each have more than 50,000 square metres. Hall space is expected to grow only slightly in the coming years. Investments will be made primarily in quality. An additional approximately 370,000 m² of hall space are available at venues for exhibitions with regional focuses.
Despite a weakening economy and relatively low growth in foreign trade in Germany, the 163 international and national German trade fairs still recorded slight increases in the year before the Corona pandemic. However, only the capital goods fairs showed stronger growth in exhibitor, stand space and visitor numbers. The public fairs showed strong declines in visitor numbers, especially in the automotive sector.
Nearly two-thirds of the leading global trade fairs in different branches of industry are held in Germany. The country is the world’s number one location for international trade shows. Despite the worsening economic conditions, they again grew slightly in Germany compared to their previous events, with only the number of visitors remaining constant. The competitive position of trade fairs vis-à-vis other marketing media remains stable.
Internationality on the exhibitor and visitor side is the most important advantage of German trade fairs in global competition. For many years, the decisive growth driver in international participation on the part of exhibitors was the region of South-East-Central Asia. Almost 31,000 exhibitors (+11.9%) from Asian countries came to the trade fairs in Germany in 2019. The number of exhibitors from EU countries fell by 2%.
International and national trade fairs in Germany are supplemented by a dense network of regional trade fairs for both trade and public visitors. Some 55,000 exhibitors and around 6 million visitors gather at these events every year.
The 160 trade fairs with a regional catchment area in Germany recorded a total of almost 52,000 exhibitors, 1.62 million sqm of stand space and 5.7 million visitors in 2019.
German companies that exhibit at trade fairs in other countries ensure and strengthen exports of German goods and services. The German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) provides special support in this area to small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) with its foreign trade fair programme. With a focus on trade fairs outside the EU, the BMWi coordinates the German Pavilions (joint presentations under federal auspices) with the umbrella brand name “made in Germany".
The German trade fair companies in AUMA and FAMA organise around 300 trade fairs on six continents every year. Most of these companies apply proven strategies for leading trade fairs in Germany to selected markets in other countries. All key figures for
German trade fairs abroad have increased on a regular basis – taking interval-based fluctuations into account. This trajectory is expected to continue in the years to come. AUMA supports these trade fairs in other countries with its quality label “German Trade Fair Quality Abroad".
AUMA MesseTrend 2020 survey – Graphics
A few months before the Corona pandemic, in November 2019, 500 representatively selected German companies that primarily exhibit at business-to-business fairs were surveyed. The result once again impressively showed the fundamentally strong anchoring of the trade fair as an instrument in German companies. According to the survey, 29% of exhibitors wanted to spend more money on trade fair participation in 2020/2021, 53% wanted to invest about the same amount, and only 17% planned to spend less. These were the findings of the AUMA MesseTrend 2020, a survey conducted by Kantar TNS on behalf of AUMA. But even in this survey it became clear that real experiences and virtual reality will complement each other in the future - at least on exhibition stands of German exhibitors. For the time of the Corona pandemic and beyond, a considerable strengthening of this development is expected.
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