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January 9 2019Exhibition industry

German trade fairs remain on course: Further increase in exhibitor numbers

AUMA Chairman Mennekes: Boosting emotional content at fairs needs to add commercial value


Exhibitions in Germany held their ground in 2018 with solid results despite difficult overall economic conditions. The year’s 178 international and national fairs had an average of 1.5% more exhibitors and around 1% more stand space than their respective previous events. Visitor numbers were just about half a per cent below previous levels. These figures are results of a preliminary analysis by AUMA, the Association of the German Trade Fair Industry.

The 2018 increases in exhibitor numbers and stand space are less than the growth rates in 2017, which showed a good 3.5% more participation and around 3% more stand space. Yet these growth rates occurred despite considerably greater uncertainty about the domestic economy and foreign trade – summed up by the term ‘protectionism’ – which could have forced businesses to take a markedly more cautious approach to trade fairs. Moreover, discussions about the ‘right’ type of format negatively affected only a few industry events.

“Trade fairs naturally have to undergo further development,” said AUMA Chairman Walter Mennekes. “But most of the strategies underlying our trade fairs are sustainable. Only a relatively narrow trade fair segment has a need for significant changes in format. I would caution against declaring ‛festivalisation’ a new general trend. Trade fairs of all types will be acquiring greater emotional content, including B2B events, and in many cases this process has already begun. But ultimately all new orientations have to offer the majority of exhibitors and visitors concrete additional commercial value.”

AUMA’s analysis also shows that the international appeal of German trade fairs remains unchallenged. In 2018, foreign participation increased at a significantly above-average rate of around 3% – for exhibitors and visitors alike.

AUMA anticipates a further slight increase in exhibitors and stable visitor numbers for the 174 international and national fairs in 2019. Uncertainty exists primarily with respect to exhibition developments in the automotive sector.

An exhibition organiser survey by AUMA found mood in the industry trending towards optimism. According to the results, a substantial majority of exhibition companies expected higher revenues in 2019 than in the previous year despite the somewhat smaller trade fair programme due to the rotation of events. They also anticipated higher employment figures in their companies.


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Photo: Mesago / Matthias Kutt

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