Prost! The German Report (Make Eye-contact, Please)

Prost! The German Report (Make Eye-contact, Please)

Find out how the German exhibition industry has set a growth record in 2016

By John Moyes

Despite an ongoing slowdown in global economic growth and a decline in open trade promoters on the international stage, the exhibition industry is tracking for continued growth in 2017.

However, the largely positive mood has been dampened recently by major political developments such as the Brexit vote in the UK, the failed coup in Turkey, and the fallout from the US presidential election. Forty-five percent of participants globally anticipate a limited or significant negative impact on business, while at a country level, Mexico (60 percent) and the US (54 percent) report the highest degrees of concern.

Despite these factors, the German exhibition industry set a new attendance and growth record for the exhibition industry in 2016. Let’s take a peek at what is trending and factors contributing to performance according to UFI mid-year research:

  • Efficiency in Travel, Accessibility and Security

Germany’s central location and over 150 international exhibitions are certainly firmly established. Many of the larger shows occur every other year, not unlike IMTS held at McCormick Place in Chicago. Usually, these shows are always held in the same location, as Messe Frankfurt predictably will be the location for the annual Frankfurt Auto Show. The dates and locations are set in advance allowing optimal planning.

If you have traveled to any major city in Germany, you undoubtedly noticed the trains and buses run on time, and frequently. Germany has been a hub for international travel, so connections are efficient as is the German way. And even if you had to book a room some distance from the fairground in an outlying city, the S Bahn or U Bahn provide reliable and efficient accessibility. On days of the exhibition, your hall pass covers the cost of your trip to and from the Messe on public transportation. Yes, most shows still book all those buses that go to the sponsoring hotels. And if you favor the cab lines, you will find abundant cabbies in every city, and the handwritten receipts are quite impressive.

The threat of terrorism calls for vigilance, no matter where we are or where we go in the world today. Germany has an established protocol for registration and entering each trade show, relying on municipal, national, and private personnel for security at events. So far, we have not seen diminished attendance related to the threat of terrorism. The mindset of the European Union continues to be consistent with the rest of the world in that we cannot allow terrorism to derail our way of life including the pursuit of business.

  • Increasing Geopolitical Polarization of Global Shows

Germany has long enjoyed a reputation for growing leading global shows. In recent years, some of the strongest German show brands, while continuing to grow at their home bases, have experienced exceptional growth when replicated in Asia, with the number of exhibitors and attendees reaching or exceeding numbers at the German-based shows.

In light of the current environment of protectionism, the growth of regional show champions in Europe, Asia, and the Americas might very well accelerate, providing new opportunities for national and regional organizers to go it alone or to align with international players. In huge internal markets, like the US and China, there are many excellent for-profit or association organizers who currently deliver successful shows without aiming at an international audience.

Germany promotes free trade, is aligned with the Paris accord, and Angela Merkel successfully won her bid for reelection. As predicted, there was a risk of international responses or fallout to US trade policy from the Trump administration. With new travel restrictions and protectionism proliferating, the foreign visitor and more importantly the foreign buyer will choose to do business where he or she is welcome to do business. Advantage Germany for maintaining a neutral environment for world attendees and maintaining the viewpoint of “free trade” and “globalization.”

  • The Proliferation of Digitalization
    Chief Digital Officer positions have become more common in the past twelve months in Germany, working with CEOs on fast-tracking digital developments. At the same time, the fear of major disruption, in the style of Uber disrupting the taxi business, has diminished. There is a proliferation of companies offering digital service solutions that can benefit organizers as well as cut into segments of their business model. Service providers are already forming alliances with these event tech companies to offer their services in bundles to organizers, both to minimize the complexity and to strengthen their own role as increasingly important partners. One “place to watch” is data handling and especially European privacy laws.

The European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the most significant change in data privacy regulations in 20 years, and goes into effect on May 25, 2018. This regulation applies to all companies processing and holding the personal data of data subjects residing in the European Union, regardless of the company’s location. Mining show data and obtaining show leads will require “explicit consent” that must be “clear and distinguishable,” as in hold the legaleze. Fines will apply for transgressions, and the listed fines will be steep. Larger show organizers will be required to appoint a “Data Protection Officer” to ensure compliance. Thank goodness for Facebook and Instagram!

  • Taking operational excellence to the next level

In almost all leading international markets and especially in Germany, there is no lack of venue space for exhibitions. However, many organizers find it difficult to work with certain venues, citing a lack of operational experience and day-to-day processes at the venues and local support companies. While quality infrastructure is a must for hosting exhibitions, securing and training quality staff is an ongoing challenge. This has repercussions for issues as diverse as health and safety during build-up and operations to on-site security or exhibitor services.


Most German venues, while investing billions in upgrading their capacities, are also eager to invest in staff training and development. Venues run by international companies in developing markets are also taking the lead on staff training in these markets, quickly setting themselves apart from regional competitors. In general, the growth of exhibitions in Asia and the construction of venues to accommodate them has strained the labor pool, making operational excellence even more difficult to achieve.

  • When it Comes to Face-to-Face Marketing, Germany Rules
    Our partners in Germany continue to embrace the relevance of trade fairs and improve the use of integrated marketing tools. German companies who exhibit at trade visitor-oriented exhibitions improve their marketing with a wide range of initiatives that include the web, mobile, direct mail, and a dedicated sales force. An average of 43% of the marketing budget continues to be spent on trade fair participation, which represents the most important instrument in the B2B sector. These are the findings by AUMA of a representative poll of 500 selected German companies exhibiting at trade visitor-oriented

As companies look to expand internationally to reach and engage the foreign buyer, participation and attendance at an international show in Germany is still the safe bet for ROI.

About John Moyes
John Moyes serves as the director of international business development for MC2. Throughout his career, John has placed a great deal of his focus on international commerce and devoted his efforts to developing international contacts and relationships as well as training and guiding sales groups in the international marketplace.

John has a lengthy and significant history in the exhibit industry having spent over 15 years with Exhibit Group, followed by becoming the Principal/Owner of GGE (General Graphics Exhibits). He later served as a Principal and Vice President of Sales at Group Delphi, post merger with GGE. Opinions are his own. He can be reached through Angie White

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