Italy: ready to show the world

The Italian Exhibition and Trade Fair Association (AEFI) has been working for more than a year to create a set of tools and secure funding to help reopen and restart trade fair activities in the country. It shares some insights into the process of recovery now underway:

The rules for the re-opening of exhibitions in Italy were contained in the 28 May Order of the Ministry of Health, together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation. That decision came in a decree that recognised the AEFI Protocol as the reference document for the re-opening of trade fairs in the country. 

The AEFI Protocol was incorporated into the subsequent Decree Law 23 July 2021 which clarified regulations safeguarding both industry professionals and the users of the industry’s services, and introduced the Green Covid-19 Certification for entry into all fairs and exhibitions. 

Fund for Italian exhibiting companies
In terms of financial help, Italian exhibitors, from 3 June 2021 were able to apply to SIMEST (the Italian Development Finance Institution) Fund 394 for a maximum grant of €150,000, including a non-repayable share of up to 25% (depending on availability). This fund helps companies finance their participation in international exhibitions in Italy. There is also financing available for exhibition companies to indemnify losses.

The Ministry of Tourism also has funds to cover losses incurred by exhibition districts, conference centres, logistics, transport and contractor services and, alongside the national initiatives, individual Italian regions have enacted specific local measures designed to cover damage and relaunch industry.

The full calendar of major national and international events planned is available for download from the AEFI website,

Foreign trade visitors
Foreign operators travelling to international exhibitions held in Italy can take advantage of initiatives that include exemption from PCR Covid testing and quarantine when entering the country for a period of no more than five days for proven reasons of work.

To increase the number of visitors and promote Italian exhibitions, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and ICE-Agenzia have launched some major  promotional initiatives and are offering support within the framework of the Pact for Export, of which trade fairs form one of the six pillars.

A little over a month after Italian exhibitions opened their doors again on 15 June 2021, 11 national and 20 international events were held across the country - evidence of how strongly the trade sector was committed to getting back to work.

AEFI reports that 172 international events have been scheduled for the period 15 June to 31 December 2021. They cover all areas of the Made-in-Italy brand: 

• Textiles, clothing and fashion (12%); 

• Sports, hobbies, entertainments and the arts (11%); 

• Food, beverages and hospitality (10%); 

• Industry, technology and mechanical engineering (9%); 

• Agriculture, forestry and livestock (8%); 

• Furnishing and interior design (8%).

That is in addition to 163 national events scheduled, mainly in agriculture, forestry and livestock, sports, hobbies, entertainments and the arts, food, beverages and hospitality, textiles, clothing and fashion, and electronics. 

Despite the challenge of the spread of Covid-19 variants, AEFI says it remains confident about the future and trusts that the implementation of the AEFI Protocol, combined with the adoption of the Italian Green Pass, will enable the full reopening of the industry and the national economy as a whole. 

The results from the first two months of the re-opening at least indicate that it is possible to hold events safely and there is a clear interest in attending them again.

All returning events are combining physical participation with expanded digital services, AEFI reports, and there is clearly no room to be resting on laurels. Italian GDP fell by 9% last year and this year upturn is estimated to be 5%. 

Nevertheless, Italian trade fairs have a busy autumn and winter calendar planned.

Fiera Milano
Fiera Milano continues to be one of the industry leaders, despite the difficult situation,  and is committed to helping companies expand their business opportunities in Italy and abroad. The group has carved out a dominant role in events in numerous manufacturing sectors: fashion, furniture and furnishings, home and lifestyle, mechanical tooling industry, tourism, professional hospitality, food, plant engineering and energy, construction and art. 

The group’s offer is complemented by engineering services, stand-fitting services and logistic services, as well as a multichannel platform that includes digital signage, web content and congresses. 

Fiera Milano has been listed in the STAR segment of the Mercato Telematico Azionario of the Italian stock market since 2002.

Fiera Roma
Fiera Roma is reviving as a business hub strategically placed in the middle of economic flows between the North and the South of Italy and Europe. 

Fiera Roma, which has its own train stop, has a multifunctional trade fair district covering over 90,000sqm and offers a unique hosting combination for both high-level exhibitions and congress events. Its ten column-free pavilions offer advanced technologies and the business benefits from Rome’s status as a centre of excellence in training, research, science, medicine, industry, design, agriculture and technology. 

Fiera Verona
Veronafiere is under starter’s orders with a view to the autumn restart. 

“Even during the lockdown period, we always kept our engines running and as soon as Italian law allowed us to do so, on 15 June, we resumed with numerous events and by adopting a specific safe business protocol capable of ensuring maximum safety for exhibitors and visitors,” says Maurizio Danese, president of Veronafiere. 

“Trade fairs are a vital promotional tool, especially for the Italian economic system which largely consists of small and medium enterprises with huge potential but not particularly well structured to work on international markets,” Danese adds.

Veronafiere SpA has organised trade fairs, congresses and events since 1898. With 1.1m visitors, more than 13,000 exhibitors, 760,000sqm of show and stand space sold for 71 events organised in 2019, it is one of the country’s most important trade fair platforms for international business promotion. 

Veronafiere’s strength is that it has always been the direct organiser of its events. Vinitaly, Marmomac, Fieragricola, Fieracavalli and Samoter are some of the successful products in a portfolio emphasising specialisation in industrial value chains such as wine and food, agro-food, natural stone, design and construction machinery. Over the years, the offering has been expanded to include other sectors such as heating with wood biomasses (Progetto Fuoco), custom motorbikes (Motor Bike Expo), as well as the worlds of art (ArtVerona), education and training (Job&Orienta), the biomedical field (Innovabiomed) and the organic food sector (B/Open).

Veronafiere also organises fairs directly in the US, China, Russia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, England, Holland, Mexico, Poland, Thailand, Hong Kong, Morocco and Peru. It has a permanent office in Shanghai and subsidiary companies: Veronafiere do Brasil, Veronafiere Asia Ltd and Shenzhen Baina International Exhibitions. 

“The pandemic obliged us to respond to economic and financial implications as well as [posing] a design challenge involving the concept of resuming in-person trade fairs in total safety by innovating the business model to support companies,” says Giovanni Mantovani, CEO of Veronafiere. “Coronavirus also further accelerated our digital transformation processes. Physical experience at trade fairs will always be vital but we have realised that the future will move towards an integrated or hybrid model, where online aspects complete and expand the potential of the offering of attended events with a view to an ever broader multi-channel approach,” he adds.

A new Veronafiere Plus (VF+) digital platform integrates in-person events to multiply their potential by connecting the reference communities. The Vinitaly, Samoter and Wine2wine observatories are extremely useful marketing intelligence tools for companies, while initiatives organised by the Vinitaly International and Marmomac Academies ensure continuous training for sector professionals. 

Bolognafiere Group extends activities
The BolognaFiere Group is extending its activities into Latin America with the opening of a new company and new offices in Guadalajara in Mexico.

North America, China, Asia, Russia and Europe are the geographical areas in which the BolognaFiere Group already has a consolidated presence, and its operations in Mexico are expected to act as a pivot between North and Central America – providing a fast track to the North American market thanks to the NAFTA/USMCA treaty.

AEFI believes Mexico stands out in Latin America for the stability of its economy and for internal consumption trends supported by a young population and the constant expansion of the upper and middle income groups with a significant propensity for consumption.

In 2020 Italian exports to Mexico exceeded a value of €3,120m, distributed across various product sectors.

The BolognaFiere Group’s new company – GIPLANET MEXICO – will operate on two levels: setting up of exhibition spaces and the organisation of events. Indeed, work has already begun.

GIPLANET MEXICO makes its official debut in October with the setting up of Industrial Transformation Mexico, an event dedicated to the digital industry in Leòn (a city in central Mexico where a further three events are in the pipeline). It will then be involved in the setting up of leading South America events, such as the Monterrey Wedding Expo, TlaquepArte Guadalajara and Latinzoo, for the pet industry, held in Mexico City.

GIPLANET MEXICO will allow the BolognaFiere Group to become a reference partner for international organisers operating in Latin America and the company aims to get involved in scouting and boosting numbers of incoming visitors to Italy from Mexico and from the Latin American area.

Back home in Bologna, the 33rd edition of the international exhibition of organic and natural products, SANA, attracted nearly 50,000 visitors 9-23 September. SANA co-located with Cosmofarma Reazione and OnBeauty by Cosmoprof and the combined shows welcomed 1,150 exhibitor brands across 10 exhibition halls.

The organic market in Italy, in 2020, BolognaFiere reckons, is worth €4,573m and ‘Made in Italy’ organic exports to international markets add up to over €2,900m. In order to respond to this demand, initiatives have been launched including SANA BUSINESS DAYS in Hamburg, scheduled for 23 and 24 June 2022. That is a project dedicated to operators in the sector (producers and distributors) interested in expanding their business contacts in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

The German market is an interesting one  for natural cosmetics, with a business volume of €1.38bn (2019 figure) and a growth rate of around 9%, according to BolognaFiere.