Economic and political turbulence in Europe is making life difficult for its venues, but despite the woes they remain bullish about the future, writes Jennifer Creevy

A recent study by KPMG for the European Major Exhibition Centres Association (EMECA), found that for every 1,000sqm of new exhibition space built, more than 50 jobs were created. This statistic is a comforting thought, but it requires investment in facilities. And investment will only follow from success.

EMECA claims Europe has the highest share of international exhibitions - more than 700 a year - dwarfing those in the US and Asia. So far it has been a success story. EMECA president Michael von Zitzewitz says: "Europe is the premier exhibition location because of its experience and geographic position."

But Europe has been hit hard by the global economic downturn. As Union of International Fairs (UFI) president Sandy Angus puts it: "The poor world economy has knocked the cream off the trade fair industry."

Barbara Maple, president of international congress centre association AIPC, says Europe is re-evaluating its plans in the wake of economic and political turmoil. "The industry is questioning the changes that have taken place and how new attitudes and conditions are affecting working practices," she states.

The downturn is more noticeable in Germany because the global situation exacerbated an already weak national economy. Harald Kotter, head of marketing at German trade fair association AUMA, points to a 5% drop in the number of trade fairs last year and says he expects further problems from a prolonged war in Iraq.

Act of faith

EMECA board member and corporate development director at the NEC John Cole believes Germany is determined to fight hard. "Germany has been the leading country for international trade fairs so it will not give up that easily," he says. "The massive investment in facilities is a terrific act of faith in the industry."

Cole points to Messe Berlin as an example. The exhibition venue has just unveiled a new wing providing 5,000sqm of extra space, costing EUR100m (£67m).

The venue was forced to axe the 2002 Berlin Motor Show but says the loss has been offset by other exhibitions expanding, such as rail transport technology event InnoTrans, which grew by 25%. And Messe Frankfurt says the large number of international participants will help it weather the economic storm.

EMECA's Cole believes Italy is a good example of how a country can stave off the economic gloom. "Rimini has just finished a massive exhibition centre development supported by trade partners in the city," he says.

"This is matched by other Italian cities. Verona and Milan are committed to the exhibitions industry and even Rome is looking to get support for an exhibition centre."

Rimini Fiera boasts 84,000sqm of exhibition space with a conference area for 730 delegates. Turnover in 2002 was EUR44m (£29.5m), nearly 50% up on 2001. Rimini Fiera foreign consultant Ingrid Nisi, says: "While economic and political situations have affected the industry, forward planning on expansion projects and maintaining marketing activity has helped."

Mixed performance

Elsewhere, other exhibition centres report a mixed performance. Monaco's Grimaldi Forum has seen a 5% dip in turnover in the past year, Amsterdam RAI has reported a "slight decrease" in the number of exhibitions it has held, and Brussels Expo UK representative Jane Metcalfe says the market is "a little tougher with a mood of uncertainty".

By contrast, Spain's Fiera de Madrid reports bumper figures. The venue says it held 46 exhibitions in the first six months of 2002, ten more than for the same period in the previous year. The centre maintains its expansion to provide an extra 50,000sqm of space has helped it fare better, enabling events such as the International Motor Show and tourism fair Fitur to expand.

AIPC's Maple says investment is the key to sustaining the industry. She argues that investment proves to organisers that exhibition centres are resilient. But she does point out that only the exhibition centres that can show value for money will profit. "Growth in capacity, combined with a lack of growth in the overall event business, has created a buyer's market where cost-effectiveness is a more important factor than ever," she comments.

So while venues are continuing to invest to show support for the industry, Europe's exhibition trade associations maintain that everyone should pull together. As AUMA's Kotter states: "Exhibitions are the last vestige of face-to face-marketing, and as relationships will always drive commerce, it is the task of the trade fair industry to make its case as being the most cost-effective option for one-to-one marketing communications."

Venue Exhibition Key exhibitions by sector

area (sqm)

Amsterdam Rai (Holland) 87,000 Art, leisure, automotive

Bologna Fiere (Italy) 230,000 Technology services

Brussels Expo (Belgium) 120,000 Boating, seafood

Eurexpo (France) 215,000 Lifting, agriculture

Feria International de

Lisboa (Portugal) 53,000 Interiors, craft

Feria de Madrid (Spain) 180,000 IT, fashion

Feria Valencia (Spain) 220,000 Building, toys

Fira de Barcelona (Spain) 245,879 Art, beauty, fashion

Fiera di Verona (Italy) 216,000 Lifestyle, yachting

Fiera Milano (Italy) 375,000 Fashion, lifestyle

Geneva Palexpo (Switzerland) 102,000 Telecoms, automotive

Grimaldi Forum (Monaco) 10,000 Aerospace, cultural

Messe Berlin (Germany) 160,000 Aerospace, building

Messe Dusseldorf (Germany) 233,000 Food, beauty

Messe Essen (Germany) 110,000 Motor, security

Messe Frankfurt (Germany) 350,000 Consumer goods, automotive

Messe Hamburg (Germany) 64,900 Maritime, catering

Messe Munchen (includes

ICM) (Germany) 160,000 Technology, crafts

Messe SchweizAG Basel

(Switzerland) 165,000 Logistics, packaging

MOC (Germany) 30,000 Sports, shoes

Nurnberg Messe (Germany) 150,000 Hotels and catering, toys

Palais des Festival et

des Congres (France) 24,000 Telecoms, luxury travel

Paris Expo (France) 300,000 Banquets, launches

Paris-Nord Villepinte (France) 193,000 Design, leisure

Rimini Fiera (Italy) 84,000 Leisure, technology

Royal Dutch Jaarbeurs

(The Netherlands) 320,916 Security, technology

Venue No of No of No of Main Expan-

halls shows annual meeting sion

a year visitors capacity plans

for 03


Amsterdam Rai (Holland) 11 70 1.8m 1,750 N

Bologna Fiere (Italy) 18 60-70 1.3m 1,400 N

Brussels Expo (Belgium) 12 70 500,000 2,000 Y

Eurexpo (France) 11 200 1.5m 3,000 N

Feria International de

Lisboa (Portugal) 4 20 551,171 1,020 Y

Feria de Madrid (Spain) 10 70 2.7m 7,223 N

Feria Valencia (Spain) 7 35 1m 500 Y

Fira de Barcelona (Spain) 10 70 2.5m 1,650 N

Fiera di Verona (Italy) 10 30 827,970 1,663 Y

Fiera Milano (Italy) 26 80-90 5m 2,000 N

Geneva Palexpo

(Switzerland) 7 25 1.4m 11,000 Y

Grimaldi Forum (Monaco) 2 100 180,000 3,500 N

Messe Berlin (Germany) 26 60 2.3m 25,000 Y

Messe Dusseldorf (Germany) 17 43 1.5m 1,166 N

Messe Essen (Germany) 19 31 2m 1,000 N

Messe Frankfurt (Germany) 10 90 2.2m 22,000 N

Messe Hamburg (Germany) 12 30 1m 860 N

Messe Munchen (includes

ICM) (Germany) 16 40-60 2.3m 7,000 Y

Messe SchweizAG Basel

(Switzerland) 5 60-70 2m 6,000 N

MOC (Germany) 4 53 317,175 350 Y

Nurnberg Messe (Germany) 12 60 1.3m 8,000 N

Palais des Festival et

des Congres (France) 5 21 251,000 2,300 Y

Paris Expo (France) 7 venues 900 6m 7,500 Y

Paris-Nord Villepinte

(France) 7 40 1.3m 700 Y

Rimini Fiera (Italy) 12 20 1m 1,000 Y

Royal Dutch Jaarbeurs

(The Netherlands) 12 60-80 1.8m 4,828 Y

Venue Flight Distance Website address

time from

from nearest

UK airport

Amsterdam Rai (Holland) 45 mins 10 mins

Bologna Fiere (Italy) 2 hrs

25 mins 10 mins

Brussels Expo (Belgium) 1 hr 20 mins

Eurexpo (France) 1 hr 20 mins

Feria International de

Lisboa (Portugal) 3 hrs 7 mins

Feria de Madrid (Spain) 2 hrs 10 mins

Feria Valencia (Spain) 2 hrs 5 mins

Fira de Barcelona (Spain) 2 hrs 30 mins

Fiera di Verona (Italy) 2 hrs

15 mins 10 mins

Fiera Milano (Italy) 2 hrs

15 mins 40 mins

Geneva Palexpo

(Switzerland) 1 hr

30 mins 10 mins

Grimaldi Forum (Monaco) 1 hr

30 mins 30 mins

Messe Berlin (Germany) 1 hr 10 mins

Messe Dusseldorf (Germany) 1 hr 10 mins

Messe Essen (Germany) 1 hr 20 mins

Messe Frankfurt (Germany) 1 hr 30 mins

Messe Hamburg (Germany) 1 hr 30 mins

Messe Munchen (includes

ICM) (Germany) 1 hr 20 mins

Messe SchweizAG Basel

(Switzerland) 1 hr

30 mins 30 mins

MOC (Germany) 1 hr 20 mins

Nurnberg Messe (Germany) 1 hr 30 mins

Palais des Festival et

des Congres (France) 1 hr

30 mins 30 mins

Paris Expo (France) 1 hr varies

Paris-Nord Villepinte

(France) 1 hr 10 mins

Rimini Fiera (Italy) 2 hrs

15 mins 20 mins

Royal Dutch Jaarbeurs

(The Netherlands) 45 mins 40 mins

For more information on companies in this sector see Event The Directory

available at

Have your say

Only registered users may comment. Sign in now or register for free.

Follow us

Latest Event Jobs