Exhibition Showcase Talks To Kai Hattendorf, Managing Director And CEO, UFI

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ES. What can we expect at the 86th UFI Global Congress 2019? What makes Bangkok an ideal destination to host such an important event?
Kai. The Congress is the perfect place to meet over 500 exhibition industry professionals from more than 50 countries, and it is the best platform to meet, network and gain insight. This year’s theme is “trust”: the role that trust plays for exhibitions, customers and organisations. Delegates can learn from speakers both inside and outside of the exhibition industry, with sessions on technology and digitisation, economic and political developments, special interest groups focusing on distinct topics and regions, and much more. Bangkok is an appealing destination for global tradeshows. Thailand’s profile has grown significantly in recent years as a hub for international exhibitions and the market is well positioned for further growth in the coming years. Part of the decision to select Bangkok as this year’s host destination was due to Thailand’s MICE industry, which already serves as a vital case study on how strategic development, policies and investments lead to tangible economic results that go beyond tourism. Hosting the 86th UFI Global Congress will show the world about the readiness of Bangkok, in terms of its capability to host global events, which enhances the image of Thailand as the Mecca of world exhibitions.

ES. The UFI Global Congress has a long journey. Please share its background story as to how it came into existence.
Kai. The UFI Congress has been the major annual meeting for the leaders of our industry since UFI was founded in 1925. We could write a whole book about its history (and maybe, with UFI’s centennial coming up soon, we might so just that soon).
Over the years, it has evolved from an initially formal meeting into the one global meeting of our industry for today’s and tomorrow’s leaders, taking place all around the world.

The first time that the Congress was held in Asia was more than 50 years ago already, back in 1968, in Izmir, Turkey. We went to the Americas already in 1974, to Bogota, Colombia. If you look at the hosts in the past ten years, you see how global the event and the industry has become: We’ve been in Singapore, Valencia, Abu Dhabi, Seoul, Bogota, Milan, Shanghai, Johannesburg, and St. Petersburg. This year, we’re back in Bangkok, where we were once before – back in 2004. And, who knows – maybe we’ll soon see an UFI Global Congress in India!

ES. What will be the highlights of 86thUFI Global Congress 2019?
Kai. The highlights will include: A global range of expert speakers from within and outside the industry, who will explore topics of strategic interest and detail current trends and challenges that those in the industry are facing; Special Interest Group sessions focusing on Marketing, Digital Innovation, Large Venues, G3 Global Alliance, Best Practice Cases and HR; The Next Generation Leadership Grant Conversation about Human 2 Human and if this is where the future of the exhibition industry lies; The Thursday evening Congress highlight: the Grand Night Out. The motto this year is “Thai Thai : A Fun Fair Full of Life”;
A special session called “Focus on Thailand”, which is a programme by this year’s congress host that will highlight Thailand’s potential as a dynamic platform of international trade shows in Southeast Asia; The post-Congress tour on the Patom organic farm and village outside of Bangkok, where participants will meet local farmers and sample traditional Thai cuisine.

ES. More than 934 international trade fairs proudly bear the UFI approved label, what are the main criterion for a trade fair to get an approval from UFI?
Kai. The key element is that all the key metrics of an UFI approved event have been independently audited – so the market can trust the numbers on exhibitors, visitors, and space sold. In an age where “data is the new oil”, and many organisers also want to sell data driven products to their customers, having your own core metrics right and approved makes all the difference in a competitive market. If you can show your customers that your exhibition, your show is UFI approved, you can show them proof.

New research that we will release around the Congress also shows that many exhibitors are critical of organisers on exactly this point. So paying for an audit is a sound investment into your own reputation, and we advise organisers to do so.
The main criteria for the UFI Approved Event label are as follows:
The exhibition must have taken place twice already
Audited statistics must be provided about the exhibition, in accordance with UFI’s Auditing Rules, detailing :
Total net exhibition space
Number of national and foreign exhibitors
Number of national and foreign visits or visitors
The exhibition must take place in an appropriate, permanent structure
The host venue must be fully functioning, well maintained, and have effective Health and Safety procedures in place
Exhibition materials, such as catalogues and advertising, are available in English.

ES. According to you, what are the top 5 trends in the exhibitions industry?
Kai. The top 5 trends right now are: Shifting trade patterns and a jittery global economy: Amidst a climate of political tension, protectionism and false news globally, economic growth is slowing down. Indeed, the latest IMF forecasts point to rougher times ahead for the global economy. Growth has become difficult to sustain, especially in the mature exhibition markets and we will see players from the two largest domestic markets in the world (US and China) looking into options abroad. All of this offers new opportunities to collaborate between organisers from different markets, and to capitalise on joint interests.  organisers from different markets, and to capitalise on joint interests. Digital is everywhere – but it is not everything: Today, digital is everywhere and it has become a commodity. The adoption of the GDPR is leading us to a “new normal” in the way that we as an industry are dealing with customer data and are building up the in-house resources to achieve that. Data handling and data security will be big topics in the future. As show brands around the world increasingly communicate digitally with their customers and communities all year round, data operations will be as relevant as show floor operations. Getting the basics right goes a long way towards creating outstanding experiences: Exhibitions should be as much about the show that a show organiser puts on around the show floor as exhibitors showcasing their products and services. We should also listen closely to our customers and their call for personal and individual experiences when they attend an exhibition. We should also pay attention to the “trade show fatigue” expressed by many visitors due to their changing expectations, and their interest in other channels such as online market places. Lastly,  organisers and venue sare advised to deliver excellence in terms of the basics. The top five important elements for visitors are: seating, catering, queueing, parking and quality of exhibitors.

Consolidation and collaboration: Due to an intense level of M&A in the past two years, and the increase in better venue space around the world, billions of dollars are flowing into our industry. All the signs right now are indicating that our industry remains attractive for investors looking for solid, mid-term returns of their investments. The growing number of “out of the industry investors” is driving prices to new heights, but it remains to be seen whether all these bets on growth will be successful. Our industry’s reputation, however, is certainly benefitting from this trend as it is helping our stakeholders to better understand the economic impact that every show and every venue creates every day. Diversity in leadership: If you look at the teams who deliver and grow exhibitions around the world, and who operate venues, you find a broad diversity of skills, nationalities, and qualifications. Slowly but surely, our industry is reflecting this as well in its leadership. We have seen a steady flow of senior appointments enriching the diversity of boardrooms over the past two years, adding new voices to the respective tables – most notably women on the one hand, but also hires from outside of the industry. Both of these trends will accelerate, and continue.

ES. What is the role and activities of a UFI President? Now thatUFI has elected V. Anbu as the next President, what does this signify for India?

Kai. In a certain way, as the President of the one global trade association for the exhibitions industry, you are very much representing our industry. The UFI President is the legal and official representative of UFI and chairs the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors and the General Assemblies. The role of the UFI President is to support UFI’s mission and drive developments. Mr Anbu will be the first UFI President from India in the history of the association and will continue to work towards greater recognition for the Indian exhibition industry. In recent years, the Indian exhibition industry has witnessed significant changes and thanks to its growing economy, India has an advantage in terms of attracting big-ticket events. Mr Anbu’s election to President will help to promote India even further as a major player in the exhibition industry and he will work with UFI to discuss what can be done for the betterment of the industry in India.

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