What do you think about this year’s trade fairs and what are your company’s biggest business challenges?
We continued with our traditional programme – the Home Fair, Ambient Ljubljana Furniture Fair, Alpe-Adria: Tourism and Leisure Show, the Boat Show and Nature-Health – and we added the LOS – Ljubljana trade fair. As we are open for other fair organisers we also hosted a number of other events. We have noticed a slight decrease in the latter – a number of potential organisers who used to organise fairs at our centre could not manage to put their events together in these times of economic upheaval. Despite this, all our fairs are noting a good numbers of exhibitors and visitors. This is certainly the result of a higher input on our part and it will definitely impact our business result. We recorded better results from our core business in 2011 than we did in 2010. Of course, fairs are not the only part of our core business; we also organise conferences, business and entertainment events, from corporate presentations to traditional proms and concerts – recently most of which have been electronic music.
Are Slovenian trade fairs internationalised and open enough? How can we improve this?
According to the UFI criteria the exhibition centre hosts 6 international fairs. Despite this, we would like to have more international cooperation. As the exhibition centre is relatively small in light of international competition and since the Slovenian economy is also small, we have to be realistic when planning our events. Nevertheless, internationalisation is definitely one of our goals. Concrete examples of this are the Alpe-Adria: Tourism and Leisure Show spreading in the region of the Alps and Adriatic and the partner project Conventa targeting the region of SE Europe on one hand and buyers from all over the world on the other. We have also signed a contract with a partner in India to help us connect with exhibitions and business visitors from Asia. And finally, we are trying to internationalise through our membership of organisations such as UFI and CEFA for fairs and ICCA for the meetings industry.
What is your view on the possibility of cooperating with other fair companies on common projects in Slovenia and across the region?
Every cooperation can result in added value, but of course we first need to set clear project goals and tasks. Cooperation in sharing exhibitors, suppliers data etc. is common practice. In the near future we are planning to cooperate on a specific exhibition project with one of the exhibition centres of a neighbouring country.
What is the future of general fairs as opposed to specialised ones?
All the events hosted by the Exhibition Centre are specialised. In Ljubljana the general offer is plentiful throughout a number of shopping centres. Fair visitors have become very demanding. Their motto is ‘time is money’ and they don’t like to sacrifice time or money to aimlessly wander around a fair. They want to know exactly what is on offer before they decide to visit. We believe that despite new technologies and internet usage, fairs will always have their place, since they facilitate the personal contact between producer and buyer.
Are the national and regional tourist organisations fulfilling their role in promoting trade fairs?
In my opinion the fair industry is something that is forgotten far too often – it is overlooked as an important revenue source and as a means of promoting tourist services in Ljubljana.
What is Ljubljana currently missing to make a developmental breakthrough?
We believe Ljubljana is a city of fairs, the Ljubljana fair; our predecessor was a founding member of UFI. Together with Tourism Ljubljana we will keep on trying to achieve a higher profile of Ljubljana as a city of fairs.
When do you think Slovenia will be ready to host an internationally renowned fair?
If we look at the numbers (and these are the only relevant thing in business) we are simply too small to be the centre of the world. A different answer would be welcome and preferable, but also misleading.
What are your ambitions for the development of the Ljubljana Exhibition and Convention Centre in the future?
The vision of our company is certainly to expand beyond our borders and become the leading event organiser in SE Europe, given our success in developing our existing fairs as well as hosting new events and congresses. With ambition, knowledge and teamwork we will definitely see improvements in our business results.