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Photo: Messe Berlin

According to the organisers’ plans from autumn 2020, around 380 exhibitions were to be held in Germany in 2021. Already, around 110 have been cancelled or postponed to 2022 due to the ongoing corona pandemic. In view of the declining number of infections, the German exhibition industry is in favour of developing a concept for the reopening of trade fair operations already now, based on the experience gained in spring and summer 2020.

“Due to the long lead times for a trade fair realisation, politics should start as early as possible to map out reliable framework conditions based on the previous regulations for the restart of the exhibition business. Along with the opening of retail stores, trade fairs should also be permitted again, because business procedures in both sectors are very similar. A comparable decision has already been made on 6 May 2020”, emphasises Jörn Holtmeier, Managing Director of AUMA – Association of the German Trade Fair Industry.

In autumn 2020, the organisers proved that exhibitions can be held successfully and safely under high sanitary standards. Above all, small and medium-sized businesses urgently need their real industry platforms for the convincing presentation of new products and the acquisition of new customers.

Worst slump in German exhibition business for over 70 years

The overall balance sheet for 2020 shows that the cancellations of around 70% of the planned fairs have left enormous macroeconomic damage in their wake. In “regular” years, the organisation of exhibitions contributes around 28 billion euros to Germany’s total economic output, of which only 6 billion euros remained.

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Photo: Messe Düsseldorf / ctillmann

Not only exhibition organisers stand constructors and exhibitors suffered considerable financial losses. Hotels, restaurants, forwarders, taxi drivers and retailers in the respective cities have been severely affected, too, by the cancellation of fairs in 2020. Holtmeier: “If this development continues in 2021 only approximately, more than 100,000 jobs are likely to be at risk in the affected sectors”.

Of the 355 international, national and regional exhibitions planned for 2020 only 114 could be held. According to AUMA calculations, only just under 2.5 million sq. m. of stand space, 70,000 exhibitors and 4.3 million visitors were registered in 2020. This is a decline of around 72% in each case compared to the results of the preliminary events of the fairs originally planned for 2020. At those shows, almost 8.9 million sq. m. of stand space, 248,000 exhibitors and 15.6 million visitors were recorded.

The revenue level of around 4 billion euros that the German exhibition organisers had planned for 2020 has plummeted by almost 70%.