80 years of Messe Stuttgart


An indispensable showcase for the economic strength of the state of Baden- Württemberg – will turn 80 years old on 28 May 2020, although the staff will only celebrate be able to celebrate the anniversary virtually in their home offices. Messe Stuttgart is and has been an innovation platform for new developments from around the world and, notes CEO Roland Bleinroth, “for the recovery of the economy, the successful tradefair platforms created for many industries will be extremely valuable”. With a turnover of around €200m in the Group, 2020 was set to have been the most successful financial year ever, were it not for the pandemic. Messe Stuttgart President Stefan Lohnert is hopeful, however, events can resume in the autumn. The company has taken exception measures, introducing short-time working on 1 April and shelving planned new investments at the trade fairgrounds for the time being. But, says Lohnert, there are intense preparations for the restart.

The history of Messe Stuttgart shows that the company has had a long history of coping with adverse circumstances. In the Second World War, in May 1940, the company ‘Stuttgarter Handelshof AG, Ausstellungs – und Tagungsstelle’ was transformed into ‘Stuttgarter Ausstellungs GmbH’. The formal administrative act of the municipal council finally sealed the transformation on 28 May 1940, the day regarded as the official date on which Messe Stuttgart was founded. The name of the company was later changed to ‘Stuttgarter Messe- und Kongressgesellschaft mbH’.

During the Second World War, only a few smaller exhibitions were staged in Killesberg before the site of the former Reich Garden Show was destroyed in a bombing raid. This was followed by reconstruction work, and large halls were built for the German Garden Show in Killesberg in the 1950s, a time during which the tradefair business really took off. The first large exhibitions included the German Gymnastics and Sport Exhibition, the German Pharmacists’ and Pharmaceutical Exhibition, the first Bakery Trade Exhibition (the current ‘Südback’) and the Butchers’ Exhibition Süffa, which is still held regularly in a fixed cycle. The current Intergastra also existed in the past under the name ‘International Trade Exhibition for the Hotel and Restaurant Industry – Gastlicher Süden’ (1958).

In addition to the German Garden Show, the event highlights during the 1950s also included international boxing and athletics and even a performance by Bill Haley (1958).

During the 1960s, the German Broadcasting Exhibition was held twice (1965 and 1969) at the Stuttgart Trade Fair Centre. Car-Sport-Leisure (MSF), the forerunner of the current CMT exhibition, was also established and the roller shutters trade fair ‘R’, now known as the world’s leading tradefair for roller shutters, doors/gates and sun protection systems ‘R+T’, also dates back to this time.

CMT and Medizin were then held regularly from the 1970s onwards while Interbad was staged for the first time in Stuttgart. The seventies also saw Elektro-Hobby and Modell Süd, now part of Messe Stuttgart’s autumn line-up, stablished. Premium tradefairs such as AMB and Vision, have been integral parts of Messe Stuttgart’s portfolio since the 1980s. The digital world picked up speed in the 1990s and the tradefair programme embraced Digital & online 1st Congress + Trade Exhibition for Interactive Multimedia Applications and later the Multimedia Market & Congress. Many other tradefairs for new technologies were also created. The rapid growth created space problems at the site in Killesberg  and new buildings were required to satisfy demand. A new site was found on the Filder, in the district of Leinfelden-Echterdingen near to the airport. A legal dispute held things up for several years before the New Stuttgart Trade Fair Centre finally overcame all the obstacles.

Messe Stuttgart was officially opened during a grand ceremony by the then Federal President Horst Köhler in October 2007. The new fairground offered 105,200sqm of space, roughly twice as much as in Killesberg and it was quickly booked up. The town of Leinfelden-Echterdingen even renamed itself the ‘trade fair town’. Since then, a large number of hotels used by tradefair visitors and exhibitors sprung up around the area, and that’s not to mention restaurants, the taxi trade and shops, as well as other cultural and leisure offers. “It is therefore important both for the industries covered by our events and Messe Stuttgart itself that tradefair operations can restart, but also for our numerous service providers and our environment,” says Bleinroth.

The next step towards expansion was marked by the establishment of foreign subsidiaries. In 2009 Messe Stuttgart founded a Turkish tradefair subsidiary which is now called Messe Stuttgart Ares. A joint venture with the company operating Messe Nanjing followed in 2011 in China. Then came a very dynamic and successful development of a large number of tradefair topics. A subsidiary was also founded in the USA in August 2013 and started with tradefairs relating to the area of sustainability. As international business expanded, the international participation rate at leading events in Stuttgart increased also.

Messe Stuttgart reached its spatial capacity limits again at its new site, which is why the construction of a 10th exhibition hall was accelerated and opened in January 2018. This new exhibition hall increased the amount of exhibition space to 120,000sqm.

The site is directly connected to Stuttgart Airport, the A8 motorway and the B27 trunk road. The urban railway (S-Bahn) transports exhibitors and visitors from Stuttgart city centre to exhibitions and congresses in around 30 minutes. An underground railway connection will follow by the end of 2021. There will also be a station for long-distance trains at the tradefair grounds in future. Messe Stuttgart was and is a trendsetter, and reflects market developments. It brings supply and demand together. “A personal discussion cannot be replaced by digital tools, but digital platforms will probably complement the reach of our trade fairs and exhibitions to an increasing extent,” says Bleinroth.