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Düsseldorf keeps those wagons rolling

Paul Colston finds out how Düsseldorf got the European tradefair wagon rolling again, with Caravan Salon 2020 a September success and an example for others to follow.

Over 107,000 people visited German venue Messe Düsseldorf’s first major tradefair since the coronavirus outbreak and some highly satisfied exhibitors went away having hitched some good sales results to their Caravan Salon attendance.

This year’s Caravan Salon Düsseldorf provided proof that both caravanning continues to inspire people and that tradefairs can be held successfully even in corona times.

A regional show centred on a sector that has stayed strong through the Covid-19 crisis was a good starting point for Messe Düsseldorf and organising partner the Caravaning Industrie Verband e. V. (CIVD). They reported some positive results from the 10-day show, with the 107,000 visitors sending an important signal for the entire tradefair industry.

“The world’s most important tradefair for caravanning convinced with its well thought-out hygiene and infection protection concept,” said Erhard Wienkamp, managing director of Messe Düsseldorf.

“The whole team at Messe Düsseldorf and CIVD, as well as all employees of our exhibitors, turned this tradefair into a fantastic experience with great commitment and lots of passion,” Wienkamp added. The mood at the fairground was excellent and there were plenty of newbies and young families joining the experienced caravan industry brigade.

Hermann Pfaff, president of organiser CIVD, described the visitor numbers as “a very good result under the circumstances”.

“The fact that they include many newcomers and that the average age has come down markedly shows that we are experiencing an inflow of completely new customers. The success of the event, however, is not only measured by the attendance figures but above all by the sales deals concluded – and those were even higher than in the record year, across the board.” Exhibitor feedback was also positive.

“After initial scepticism, we are overall very happy to have presented our products at this year’s Caravan Salon. Although the number of visitors was limited, our Hobby sales team was kept very busy. Even under these circumstances Caravan Salon proved a really nice tradefair,” said Holger Schulz, MD at Hobby.

Dr Holger Siebert, MD at Eura Mobil GmbH and Trigano Deutschland KG, said: “This Caravan Salon was special – we have held the first major tradefair in Germany in precarious times. The atmosphere was relaxed and positive... Occupying 15,000sqm of exhibition space with 20 brands, the Trigano Group showed trust in the tradefair. All brands succeeded in increasing their sales.”

Bernd Wuschack, manager sales, marketing at the Carthago Group said the show called for a lot of courage.

“Courage on the part of Messe Düsseldorf, on the part of exhibitors and dealers as well as on the part of visitors. This courage has paid off for all parties: the audience behaved in a very disciplined and mindful manner, our specially developed exhibition concept with separate meeting islands met with a very positive response and the hygiene concept of Messe Düsseldorf was successful.”

Mike Reuer, MD at Westfalia Mobil GmbH, was also positive about the show: “We are pleased we participated. In line with the hygiene concept there were fewer visitors touring the halls than in previous years – but we saw visitors with an increased interest in camper vans and buses. Direct sales to end users exceeded those posted in the previous year. Visitors were disciplined, wearing face masks and waiting at a distance to inspect the vehicles, which were placed further apart on our enlarged stand space, thereby easing visitor routing and allowing for sufficient waiting areas by the vehicles. Conversations on the stand and in the guest area were relaxed and safe thanks to the partition screens we had installed between the tables.”

Next year’s show is a big anniversary year, with the 60th Caravan Salon Düsseldorf returning 27 August to 5 September 2021.

Meet mine host of Düsseldorf’s caravanserai

EW interviewed Michael Degen, executive director of Messe Düsseldorf

How much of a challenge was it for the Messe to stage the Caravan Salon this year?

We were indeed faced with a major challenge.

The pandemic is unprecedented. In developing the necessary hygiene concept, we took an interdisciplinary approach in order to cover as many facets of our business as possible.

Physicians, technicians and event colleagues all took part. The involvement of the authorities was also of elementary importance and they were at the table right from the start.

The current hygiene and infection protection concept gradually developed from those beginnings.

What are the current state regulations governing the running of exhibitions affecting the Messe?

With Covid-19, completely new rules of the game were introduced, which must also be taken into account when planning a tradefair.

For us, this meant above all that we had to redesign the entire hall to ensure that the necessary measures could be complied with. We achieved this, for example, by increasing the distances between the stands and thus the aisle widths. At the same time, we had to change structures that had been in place for years.

All this was only possible by communicating well, not only within the team, but also with our exhibitors. An extra 7,000 posters and signs were put up throughout the exhibition grounds, including distance markings, route guidance, instructions and general information about Messe Düsseldorf’s hygiene and infection protection standards.

We also installed 1,600 disinfectant dispensers and 600 metres of Plexiglas for partitions.

How did the Caravan Salon differ in look, feel and numbers this year?

The most important thing is that all visitors to the fair felt safe and we did everything humanly possible to ensure this.

The use of a mouth and nose protector was obligatory on the exhibition grounds. In addition, all hygienic measures were adapted to the new conditions.

Hand disinfectants were available for stand personnel and visitors at all hall entrances and stands.

This year 350 exhibitors presented their innovations and new products in 10 halls and on the open-air grounds. And, although we had fewer exhibitors this year than in previous years, the range of products on offer was still the largest and most varied on the market.

The maximum number of visitors was limited to 20,000 per day - with a total area of over 200,000sqm.

I assume there was a hybrid element. Tell us about that?

Tickets could only be ordered online through our website, so we could guarantee registration and direct tracking.

Unfortunately, this year many media representatives from abroad could not come to Düsseldorf - especially from Asia, Scandinavia and Southeast Europe.

For these media and other interested people, we broadcast all press conferences of our manufacturers as live stream and of course streamed our opening. In addition, all new products and vehicle premieres were available on our website.

What lessons can be drawn from the running of this exhibition for the wider events industry?

We learn, make things better - or completely different. We can set priorities, reprioritise or change perspectives.

We simplify organisational processes, offer new services, create opportunities for mobile working, conduct more meetings digitally, perhaps even develop new business models, expand or optimise existing standards that protect our health.

How will the experience effect your planning and strategy for future tradefairs at the Messe?

We are happy that our hygiene concept works excellently and that the rules of conduct are accepted by the visitors without problems.

Everything we learn today to improve hygiene at events will probably continue to accompany us - even after coronavirus. We have taken away with us procedures and patterns that serve health protection on our grounds. We are particularly pleased about the successful restart of the tradefair business.

Every single tradefair has individual characteristics that need to be taken into account in future planning. Nevertheless, we can rely on a well-functioning basic framework - the Caravan Salon 2020 has proven this.