Sergey Voronkov, CEO of ExpoForum International, talks about the venue’s international strategy
What makes your positioning unique?
First of all, St. Petersburg is an attractive destination, it ranks 14th at the Top World Destinations by Trip Advisor. It has always been considered as the connection point between Russia and Europe.
For five years our company has been managing Lenexpo Exhibition Complex, the oldest venue in the city. We’ve built an extensive portfolio of events and experience. Starting from 2014, when the EXPOFORUM Convention & Exhibition Centre opened we’ve relocated our shows to new grounds. EXPOFORUM is the only venue in the city meeting international standards. This allowed us to enlarge events, bring new formats and increase revenue.
On the initial planning stage we considered building three additional holds for 45,000sqm of extra space. I will consider it in 2018 if we manage to load up to 80 per cent of existing capacity.
We’ve had very positive feedback with the St. Petersburg economic forum, where top global figures came to discuss politics, with Mr Putin, the UN and Alibaba. Both national and international visitors said it was one of the most impressive and technically-equipped venues they had seen.
The new airport terminal should also contribute our growth– while on a state level new legislation should help improve our industry. The country’s economy is a bit unstable currently, which causes markets to consolidate.
Our main core strategy is to create umbrella brands, bringing together different organisers of events from the same segment under one umbrella brand giving us more exhibitors, more visitors and more media coverage. One of the most successful samples is our flagship event – the St. Petersburg International Gas Forum. It’s a stable brand which bought various expos together from the extraction till the end consumer.
Multi-format events are getting a bigger share each year. The Royal Auto Show combines a display part and interactive performances with test drives and entertainment.
What is your market breakdown?
ExpoForum International is one of the leaders on the Russian convention and exhibition market, controlling more than 40 per cent of the Northwest region. We operate two venues – the Lenexpo Exhibition Complex and the ExpoForum Convention and Exhibition Centre.
These two venues host more than 120 events annually, including roughly 70 exhibitions, of which we organise a full third in-house.
Europe is still our leading segment. The company’s partners include leading international and Russian exhibition organisers like ITE Group, Reed Exhibitions, Messe Dusseldorf, Dolphin Exhibitions and many more.
In 2015, ExpoForum International used Lenexpo for the launch of three projects – the Chinese Business Centre; Import Substitution and Localisation Centre and the Latin American Business Centre.
We established the Russian-Chinese Business Centre for Russian companies interested in entering the Chinese market and vice-versa. We hosted 34 delegations last year from 17 provinces, with 2,000 coming from China to St. Petersburg.
Meanwhile, Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries and the Baltics are increasing. So that’s around 1,000 foreign exhibitors taking part each year in our events, with around 10,000 visitors: 60 per cent from Europe and 20 per cent are from CIS, Baltics and elsewhere. The other markets, including the USA, are not so well represented due to distance.
What is your future focus?
We’re inspired by companies that are venues and organisers at the same time, like Frankfurt Messe. We are trying to save the experience of Lenexpo and, of course, to bring in new things taking the best from different market players.
What could the industry do better?
We would like to see more coverage of how exhibitions and meetings influence a region’s overall economic performance.
We want more attention from governments about the amazing tool they have in their hands. Events are bringing the success to cities and whole countries.
Meanwhile, people should be more open-minded to emerging markets. Political situations are always changeable: they come and go while the business stays. Don’t be afraid to explore new opportunities.
It’s not about the numbers but level. We have major services in-house: booth design and building, catering, logistics. It allows us to control price and quality.
The main goals we are focusing on as a company are being fast and flexible for the market. We conduct surveys regularly on the level of satisfaction and ask our departments about the event, to see the bottlenecks. We are trying to expand our borders and are developing our competencies as an organiser of other events.
In spring 2016 we performed as an operator of the St. Petersburg part of the Ice Hockey Word Championship. Now, in the beginning of the year we’re looking forward to further challenges in 2017 and 2018 with FIFA World Cup coming to our city. EW