Exhibitor reluctance forces Cologne to abandon plans to run tradefairs before October

Koelnmesse has reported that it has shelved plans to run its own tradefairs and exhibitions this summer, due to pushback from various industrial sectors and potential exhibitors. Koelnmesse announced the news in a statement from its Management Board that it has, therefore, decided not to hold events of its own in Cologne till the end of October 2020.

The Mayor of the City of Cologne, Henriette Reker, who is also chairwoman of the Koelnmesse Supervisory Board, said she regretted this turn of events: "It was a difficult decision. The team at Koelnmesse brought great dedication to the task of developing ideas and concepts that would carry the tradefair location of Cologne through this crisis. This also includes the hosting of digital events and the development of new tradefair formats. We are taking the concerns of our tradefair partners to heart in hopes that the further course of events will soon give us an opportunity to personally welcome our guests back to Cologne."

Koelnmesse president and chief executive officer Gerald Böse added: "We have developed comprehensive packages of measures to ensure our tradefairs are coronavirus-compliant. We continue to firmly believe in the important role of our tradefairs in returning to a steady economic environment. Unfortunately, however, we did not succeed in easing our customers' deep-seated doubts around in-person business meetings in the autumn, and their attitude is understandable at the moment. We are well aware of what this serious decision means, not only for us as a company but also for all of Cologne as a business location. All of us working together here in Cologne did our best to try to make the re-start a reality. “Without adequate levels of participation by exhibitors and visitors, however, this is impossible to achieve."

The following events are affected at the venue:
The garden fair spoga+gafa, 6-8 September 2020

  • Kind + Jugend (baby and children's outfitting), 17-20 September 2020
  • DMEXCO (digital marketing), 23-24 September 2020
  • ORGATEC (leading trade fair for modern working environments), 27-31 October 2020
  • euvend & coffeena (vending and coffee), 29-31 October 2020.

INTERMOT, a large motorcycle tradefair open to the general public, had also been scheduled for the same period but had already been cancelled. gamescom will be held in late August as an exclusively digital format. ART COLOGNE and COLOGNE FINE ART & DESIGN, art fairs planned for November, are not affected by the decision.

"Motivated by the outstanding registration levels we had already reached in spring 2020 for events in the autumn, Koelnmesse worked diligently and with the best outlook for successful implementation of the tradefairs beginning in September 2020, once the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia permitted the resumption of tradefairs subject to certain conditions," said Oliver Frese, chief operating officer at Koelnmesse. “Still, in spite of these extensive preparations, in recent weeks customers had expressed ongoing concerns in many intensive conversations, announcing that they would not be attending or even cancelling their participation altogether," he added.

"Even in times like these, tradefairs naturally need a certain level of completeness in terms of exhibitors and visitors. Our tradefairs here in Cologne are distinguished by the high internationality of attendees from Europe and around the world. We would have been far from able to ensure this quality," the COO said.

The difficulties faced by many companies and reports of a resurgence of new Covid cases of infection in Germany have also been factors affecting the decisions, as well as continuing travel restrictions at the intercontinental level.

From 2021 onwards, spoga+gafa, as a central order fair, will be moved to June to reflect the business cycles of the garden industry. Like gamescom, DMEXCO 2020 - which was already planned as a hybrid event - will be held completely digitally.

Koelnmesse now expects sales and profit losses in the three-digit million euro range, Böse noted.  "Restarting tradefairs in Cologne as soon as possible remains eminently important," he added.

Levels of equity are thought to be sufficient and liquidity assured, although Koelnmesse said it would take further steps to make savings. "We will continue to fight," said Böse: "for our exhibitors and visitors, for the tradefair sector, for Koelnmesse and for Cologne as a venue for tradefairs and congresses."

Koelnmesse generated more than €400m in revenue worldwide in 2019 and has a workforce of more than 1,000 people. It is home to the third-largest tradefair grounds in Germany and ranks among the top ten in the world.