Few people would dare suggest that the history of the German trade
fair industry is anything other than long and illustrious given that it
is one of the leading service sectors in the German economy. The
country's 23 messen generate an annual turnover of about DM4.8bn (£1.5bn).
Hanover is home to the 425,000 sq m Deutsche Messe - the largest
exhibition centre in the world. Snapping at its heels is Milan, but then
comes a string of German successors - Frankfurt, Cologne and Dusseldorf,
making Germany home to four of the world's five largest exhibition
centres. Harald Koetter, spokesman for German trade fair association
AUMA thinks the offering in other countries is paltry by comparison.
"Other countries have only one or two large exhibition centres," he
"France has just two in Paris, the UK has 200,000 sq m in Birmingham and
a centre in London now, but that is all. In Germany there is national
competition so all the centres have very high standards."
Such is the pull of the messen and their ability to handle large events
that most of the shows have international relevance. The 23 German
complexes attract 10m visitors every year, nearly 20% of whom come from
outside Germany, while out of the 170,000 exhibitors almost 50% are from
Moreover, most venues are ideally located close to the city centre, with
a good range of accommodation and attractions within striking
Renowned for culture
Messe Hamburg benefits from its proximity to the city's harbour area,
which is home to music festivities, shopping malls and the Alster lake,
plus up to 10,000 beds in internationally branded hotels such as
Radisson SAS and Hyatt Hotels. Dresden, as the wealthiest city in the
former East German republic, is renowned for its culture with the
reconstruction of the 'Frauenkirche' perhaps its most popular icon.
Again, local hotels, among them the Dresden Hilton, Westin Bellevue and
Radisson SAS, bear an international flavour. Munich, too, is well served
with hotels and visitor attractions.
The industry is in bullish mood and continues to stamp its presence on
the international events arena with venues reporting record years and a
record tally of events. But behind this polished veneer of success,
however, the omens do not look quite as good.
The peculiar manner in which German shows are organised - events are run
by the venues rather than by business entrepreneurs - means that, in
truth, the industry operates as a closed shop. That fact, combined with
the harsh reality of a wavering economic climate, particularly in east
Germany where investment and unemployment is high, has all the makings
of a potential slowdown.
Messe Dresden marketing director Tobias Blaurock says: "The key issue
for German venues is whether the sites can keep their status as mostly
non privately-owned companies. The public nature of ownership means they
are not as flexible as they could be and therefore have trouble
"We are under increased pressure to make an operating profit. Using
messen as an instrument for local business development is still a valid
argument for public investment, but the public also wants to see a
bigger pay-off in the development of our companies."
Period of consolidation
Perhaps for that reason the messen are looking to consolidate their
strengths and to chase new markets and opportunities more vigorously.
Several are pushing through expansion projects. The ageing trade
fairground at Messe Stuttgart is making way for a larger exhibition
centre village adjacent to Stuttgart airport, which is scheduled to open
in 2005/2006. Messe Frankfurt has just added 40,000 sq m, Nuremburg is
adding 20,000 sq m to its 140,000 sq m and Messe Hamburg will start work
on four new halls in 2003 to create an extra 30,000 sq m.
Messe Hamburg marketing consultant for foreign markets Tarik Cavuz says:
"Our problem is one of space. We are at the point where optimum capacity
is being reached on trade fairs such as the Hamburg International Boat
exhibition and shipbuilding trade fair SMM."
In addition to bricks and mortar developments, many messen are looking
to step up their marketing. "There is now an excessive offer of
exhibition space and organisations are fighting for new shows by trying
to convince some industries to change their venues from one city to
another," says HBM director of German operations Rolf Muller-Martin.
For the poorer venues in the east it is a case of first attracting
national business. Messe Dresden's new site, a former early 20th century
industrial complex, was completed in February 2001, and marketing chief
Blaurock is keen to widen the venue's pull. "The new facilities offer
promising perspectives," he says.
Nurturing business which has the right emotional fit with the city has
led to the introduction of the Internationales Kultfahrzeugtreffen, a
show for old and new vehicles, and the messe is looking to attract
out-of town-visitors to its show about life in Saxony as well as music
trade fair Sound.
A question of time
Leipziger Messe had a stable year in 2000 and it also found time to beef
up its customer service and market research departments, expand its
marketing services and reorganise its network of agencies abroad to help
it capture more business. Even so, a Leipziger Messe spokesman
acknowledges that it could be five to ten years before the complex, a
five-year-old futuristic ensemble of steel and glass, really gets a
foothold on the international trade fair ladder. "Because of the economy
in eastern Germany we do not have the success that we should have. It is
a question of time," he says.
Other messen are keen to spot trends and break into new markets. Messe
Stuttgart pursues a niche policy. In 2000 it launched trade fairs in
three sectors: the investment sector, life science industries and a
fashion fair. For 2001 and 2002 it has new markets in its sights with
the launch of a large-scale classic car fair, Retro Classica. In January
2002 it will be holding Kids 1st, the first international trade fair for
Messe Berlin is adopting a similar approach this year with the launch of
Build IT, a trade fair for IT and communication in the building
And in 2002 the complex launches HomeTech, an international trade fair
for household appliances. The number of guest events, where outsiders
are invited in to organise shows, is constantly increasing too.
The better-off venues in the south are still largely closed to overseas
organisers and investors, so their strategy turns on their ability to
invest outside Germany, especially in the emerging markets of eastern
Europe, Asia and South America. "A few messen have founded their own
shows in other countries to beat foreign show organisers in their own
country," says HBM's Muller-Martin. "Messe Frankfurt successfully
implemented the Home Textile Fair in Moscow and Miami, the Intestoff in
Hong Kong and the International Trade Fair for Sports Equipment in
The pace of overseas activities is quickening. Messe Hamburg is moving
towards an even larger foreign trade fair programme. This includes
official German participation in 11 events under the auspices of the
German economics ministry, which has commissioned the venue to organise
official German involvement in international shows such as the
shipbuilding and shipping fairs in St Petersburg, South Korea and
New levels of cooperation
In view of increasingly fierce competition, other trade fair companies
are engaging in new levels of cooperation, not only to flag themselves
more boldly but to cut marketing costs. Although Messe Stuttgart's
failed to get its dual marketing alliance with Vienna Conference Centre
off the ground, the German centre is turning its attention to its other
alliances with Leipzig and Hamburg. The aim is to get foreign exhibitors
and attract foreign visitors to the international trade fairs in all
Meanwhile, the joint venture between Munich, Dusseldorf and Hanover and
a Chinese organisation to build and manage an exhibition centre in
Pudong, Shanghai, (Marketing Event, March 2000) is nearing fruition. The
facility is due to open this November from where the trio of German
facilities will launch new events.
CASE STUDY: EUROPAY
The fifth bi-annual Europay Members Forum (EMF) was held at the
International Congress Messe (ICM) in Munich, Germany on 6 to 8
Payments organisation Europay International, in association with
MasterCard International, invited 1,100 senior bankers and payments
industry decision-makers to discuss the future of the payment card
The three-day programme, which was designed and run by Jack Morton,
encouraged discussion and networking by placing more than one-third of
the programme within EMF Expo, which comprised two halls of 100
exhibitors which took 2,500 sq m of space in total.
Jack Morton account director Rupert Evans says: "The ICM is several
miles outside Munich, which is where most of the accommodation is. We
were kept busy ensuring hospitality desks were available in each of the
seven hotels, as well as arranging a 56-bus travel schedule, gala dinner
and airport transfers for 1,100 people."
Jack Morton gave each day a specific focus. Day one was on
business-to-consumer issues, with m-commerce (using mobile phones as a
sales tool) the subject of day two. Day three involved workshops.
The EMF has taken place in Switzerland, Norway, Spain and France, but
these events did not have consistent branding.
"Our thinking was to produce a design for the brand with longevity and
versatility in the way in which it could be applied across all areas of
the event," Evans says.
MESSEN AT A GLANCE
Messe Dresden Exhibition area: 18,000 sq m roofed area divided into four
multi-functional halls, plus 13,500 sq m outdoor space
Strategy: Opens up to overseas exhibitors, but only has offices in the
Czech Republic and, more recently, Poland. The first focus is on
maintaining local links and developing national business which has the
right emotional fit with the city and the site Messe Hamburg Exhibition
area: 68,000 sq m, to increase to 98,000 sq m over the next few years,
as well as 8,500 sq m outdoor space
Strategy: Strengthening its foreign trade fair activities, predominantly
in the maritime sector, by organising official German involvement in
high profile international shows on behalf of the German economics
Messe Berlin Exhibition area: 160,000 sq m hall space
Strategy: Alliance with Reed Exhibition Companies to establish trade
fairs in Berlin and develop tourism trade fairs in regions of the world
where suitable demand exists
Exhibition area: 102,500 sq m indoor space, plus 30,000 sq m
Strategy: Expanded marketing services for exhibitors and visitors and
reorganising its network of agencies abroad to capture more business
Stephen Brooks, chairman of Mack Brooks Exhibitions "The German
exhibition centres are among the best in the world. They provide the
latest infrastructure and are at the geographical heart of Europe and
the EC. Germany is also at the heart of major industries. It has, after
all, the largest economy in Europe and the third largest in the world.
Most German venues are state-owned and are operated as part of the
infrastructure of the city. This creates a particular outlook and
philosophy. Many German halls are working abroad but activities in
Europe are seen as clashing with the German exhibition market so they
are having to look outside Europe, particularly to Asia. The slowdown in
general economic activity is a real concern for the future. The
exhibition market is also very mature in Germany which makes
establishing new event opportunities a very big challenge for the
CASE STUDY: MESSE BERLIN
Messe Berlin completed its expansion in early 1999, giving it 160,000 sq
m of hall space. Since then the complex has been working to develop its
presence at home and abroad. In May, the ITB became the venue's first
virtual trade fair, augmenting the services at the real fair and
providing an on-line forum. By 2002 all the complex's own events will be
accessible on the Internet as virtual trade fairs.
Last autumn Messe Berlin entered into a strategic alliance with Reed
Exhibition Companies (REC) to develop new events in Berlin and tourism
trade fairs worldwide.
A jointly owned subsidiary is developing at least five fairs in Berlin
under the name Messe Berlin Reed.
REC chief executive of Germany and Switzerland Urs Ingold says: "We have
established relationships with Dusseldorf, Frankfurt and Nuremburg and
we already have a strong form of cooperation with Essen. We are very
interested in additional alliances and cooperations, but this is the
first proper alliance between Reed and a German fairground. Berlin is
the place for all kinds of shows in the area of the servicing
industries. We are launching a show about money and one that is similar
to our events in Zurich and London called NewKomm, focusing on all
aspects of communication."
In the tourism sector, ITB in Berlin and the World Travel Market in
London - the world's two biggest travel shows - will be jointly
promoted. Relevant information held on databases will be exchanged. The
two companies have also agreed to work together to develop tourism fairs
around the world to create a powerful global brand.