No time for a honeymoon: German trade fair industry tells new federal minister of economy

In the week that sees a new German federal government take office, led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the country’s trade fair industry association (AUMA) has said there is no time for a ‘honeymoon’ and has addressed five demands directed at the federal and state governments.

AUMA has called the situation “dramatic” and says the damage the industry has suffered in 2021 outranks that of 2020.

The trade fair industry in Germany is demanding clear trade fair regulations from the new federal government for the start of 2022. From now until the beginning of spring, some 130 trade fairs are planned in Germany, AUMA notes, and the majority of them will have a strong international focus. AUMA laments that more than a dozen trade fairs for 2022 have already been postponed or cancelled because of inconsistent policies.

AUMA MD Jörn Holtmeier says: “Aid packages worth billions could be done without if the federal and state governments pursued clear and anticipatory policies during this pandemic. A decision in winter has a pull on summer and omitting decisions in summer has a double effect on the pandemic winter. The situation is dramatic. The economic damage in the trade fair industry will be even higher in 2021 than in 2020.”

As of 10 December, trade fairs are prohibited again in three German federal states and, in some places, says AUMA, trade fairs are hardly economically feasible any more due to all kinds of restrictions. Seventy one percent of the planned trade fairs were cancelled in 2021, according to the association, compared to 68%in 2020, and it calculates the total economic loss since the beginning of the pandemic at €46.2bn. AUMA calculates the damage last year amounted to €21.8bn, while expecting at least another €24.4bn will be lost in 2021. 

Holtmeier again: “Our industry is the most severely hit economic sector by this pandemic. The trading place trade fair is currently experiencing its greatest shock. Never before have well-planned trade fair programmes had so little continuity. Never before, have trade fairs had to be backed by hedging programmes. Never before have the different economy sectors missed their leading trade fairs so much.” 

AUMA notes 230,000 jobs in Germany depend on the trade fair industry and says 165,000 jobs are endangered by the see-saw situation.

“Economic recovery is only possible if the international travel restrictions are cancelled, if the vaccination dithering ends, and if politics enables trade fairs, Holtmeier adds. “As sorry as we are, we cannot grant a honeymoon of 100 days. We appeal to Robert Habeck [new federal minister for the economy and climate – Ed] to act immediately!”

AUMA’s five demands of the trade fair industry addressed to the minister are: 

  • The special trade fair fund must be complemented by a security fund for exhibitors and trade fair service providers. The current programme is missing the mark. Investments of exhibiting companies are not covered. 
  • Small and medium-sized enterprises must be given stronger support with an independent domestic trade fair promotion programme of at least €30m in 2023. The promotion of young, innovative companies has to be expanded. 
  • The Netherlands and Austria are already showing the way. In Germany, too, people have to be considered vaccinated if they have already been vaccinated with vaccines recognised by the World Health Organisation.
  • A strong effort is needed by the German missions abroad and the German trade fair industry in order to promote Germany as an international trade fair venue. In other countries, there are already specific programmes to direct international trade visitors to the home market. 
  • The way out of this pandemic is and will be vaccination. In order to be able to return to stability and predictability, the trade fair industry strongly supports the introduction of a general compulsory vaccination against corona in Germany. The sooner the better. A comprehensive corona strategy that is easily understandable for everyone is required, too. First, second and booster vaccination have to be sped-up and have to be easily accessible. This strategy’s core must be flanked by consistent implementation and control of government measures.

 For an overview of upcoming trade fairs in Germany please check the AUMA trade fair database

AUMA is the association of the German trade fair industry: nationally and internationally, it represents the interests of 72 members. These include all large and medium-sized trade fair companies in Germany as well as associations representing exhibitors, service companies and visitors.

Photo: HINTE Messe und Ausstellungs GmbH / Nico Herzog