Interview with Detlef Braun, Managing Director Messe Frankfurt
In 2021, trade fairs have been held in digital form, if at all. What, in your opinion, could be the advantages of this type of event in the future?
Digital formats offer enormous potential to increase the reach of our events and to allow trade fairs to extend the length of in-person events in the online environment. Since the start of the pandemic, we have developed and implemented a wide range of hybrid and digital formats to provide our customers with platforms where they can come together and do business. These formats have been well received and will remain an important addition to our range of services, but they cannot replace in-person trade fairs. Nobody wants to sit at home forever and communicate solely via video conference.
What do you think hybrid trade fair formats will be like in the future?
If, and how, trade fair formats fundamentally change in the future depends on the needs of the industry sectors involved. Digital elements were a part of our events long before the pandemic and will also remain so once the pandemic is over. It goes without saying that we will continue to develop our platforms in constant dialog with the various industry sectors. Through smart linking of the experience in three-dimensional space, connecting our international sales networks and expanding the range offered in the digital sphere for regions and target groups, we will make trade fair participation even more successful in the future.
Overall, what is your view of the future of the major trade fairs in Germany and around the world?
A recent customer survey has once again shown that in-person trade fairs are very much alive. The desire and demand for them is there. Our customers have expressed a clear commitment to onsite events. 67% of them want only in-person events. A further 30% state a preference for a hybrid format. In total, 97% of our customers see in-person events as an indispensable part of the trade fair experience. This makes us at Messe Frankfurt very optimistic. Our customers are there and eagerly awaiting a fresh new start!
In 2020, the trade show sector in Germany slumped by 70%; by all accounts, 2020 will also be a loss-making year for German trade fair organizers. How long can trade fair companies hold out financially through this lean patch?
We at Messe Frankfurt are doing everything within our power to get through the crisis under our own steam. We benefit greatly from our strong brand and our global diversification and have also been helped by the very strong commercial performance we enjoyed in 2019 as well as continual healthy growth in the trade fair sector over the preceding years. We manage our corporate group with a focus on liquidity and adhere to a flexible, but lean, cost budget. Despite strict cost-cutting measures, thanks to the support of our shareholders, the City of Frankfurt and the Federal State of Hesse, we are able to grasp opportunities and make anti-cyclical investments even in such difficult times.