That sounds good: Messe Berlin renamed one of its most important events to “IGW Professional 2021”. “International Green Week Meeting Place”. The word bell cannot mask reality: Green Week is canceled; there are likely to be some professional forums, including several refreshments for “professionals”. And it’s Normal trade fair operation will be possible until next year. Neither in Berlin nor anywhere else in the world.
The Corona Hall is used for Innotrans
How bitter the year 2021 will be for Messe Berlin itself – and how expensive for the state of Berlin, and therefore for taxpayers – depends on Innotrans. The International Rail Vehicle Exhibition was canceled in September and postponed to April 2021. This could work – if Hall 26 is available. The Senate has set up an emergency center for patients with corona. It wasn’t necessary yet, but no one knows what’s coming. The Supervisory Board of Messe Berlin, chaired by Senator for Economic Affairs Ramona Pop (Greens), called on the Senate to vacate the Chamber and soon adopt a resolution. With Innotrans, the fair would lose a large double-digit million. The Senate would have to provide about 100 million euros for 2021 to cover the losses of the fair. This year it is an estimated 65 million euros.
More than two thirds were canceled
More than two thirds of the 368 trade fairs planned for this year in Germany have been canceled. After almost six months of downtime, events were possible again from September, and the Düsseldorf Caravan Show in particular gave the industry hope. 107,000 visitors came to see the caravans and camping accessories for ten days of the exhibition. That’s a lot – last year it was 270,000. In Berlin, the first digital Ifa was a modest fantasy experiment that cost money. So far, Martin Fritze from the Cologne Institute for Exhibition Management says that exhibition companies talked mainly about digitization. “No one dared organize a digital fair,” Fritz said in an interview with Tagesspiegel. Now Corona leaves no choice.
In the future, the Berlin Exhibition Center will be launched by a real estate manager. Photo: dpa
Trade fair companies are experimenting everywhere, which every larger municipality also provides as a tool for regional economic development. Nowhere else in the world are there so many trade fair organizers who attract exhibitors from all over the world to their mostly ultra-modern and very expensive halls. In Coronian times, it is quite a dead capital. And exhibition company owners don’t think digital events are great because environmental profitability is zero: exhibitors and visitors spend a lot of money when they’re in town, but not online. This is one of the reasons why the management of trade fairs has so far lacked the courage to take big digital steps. And money as well.
Wanted partner for projects
Christian Göke, who will continue to head Messe Berlin until the end of the year, also calls for new concepts and constellations: Exhibition companies could work together or open up to donors – strategic investors or financial investors. Göke refers to the example of the trade fair in Basel, in which the investment company Rupert Murdochs News Corporation took part in the spring. As a goal, Göke wants to introduce one or more Senate partners by Christmas and do the last service of Messe Berlin. That’s how Göke sees it.
At the end of the year, Christian Göke, head of Messe Berlin, has been leaving since 2013. Photo: Thilo Rückeis TSP
However, the red-red-green Senate is on a reclamation course and it is unlikely that the exhibition company, and certainly not the huge complex in a prestigious location, will leave it to the investor. But partnerships for certain projects are conceivable, absolutely for the CDU. “We need know-how and money to invest in ICC,” says Christian Gräff. With the huge losses suffered by all exhibition companies during the Corona period, it is difficult to imagine greater investment in new digital exhibition formats. The economic pressure has become so great that even the head of the Cologne trade fair can now imagine working with his colleagues in Düsseldorf.
State companies do not go bankrupt
At least in the short term, there is a trend towards trade fairs with a regional focus. A major international event with several hundred thousand visitors – “it will continue to be difficult,” says the Auma trade fair association. “Approximately 60 percent of German companies want to maintain a constant participation in the fair until 2021 and beyond,” Auma recently announced. The most important trade fair goals of exhibitors are not short-term sales, but rather long-term “gaining new customers, customer loyalty, strengthening awareness and image and presentation of new products”. Sounds like a whistle in the woods. Without a special ownership structure, a large proportion of exhibition companies would find it difficult to survive a pandemic. But the state will not go bankrupt.
Real estate manager as a trade fair manager
Siemens manager Martin Ecknig, who has not yet been noticed as a marketing specialist or digitization expert, set out on an adventure at the top of Messe Berlin. The business is mainly provided by five main trade fairs: Green Week and Fruit Logistica, ITB, Ifa and Innotrans. Fruit Logistica and ITB have a trade fair for next spring in their program, as does Innotrans. There is a lot of hope in that. On the other hand, it is very likely that Boot & Fun will take place in six weeks. After all, the positive effect of the corona crisis: Camping and water sports are increasingly in demand than ever before.