Organising trade fairs is their forte


THEY are arguably the biggest trade fair and exhibition organisers in the whole world. Messe Düsseldorf GmbH, based of course in Düsseldorf, Germany can unequivocally say that for certain industries they are number one in the world. 

“We have 25 exhibitions at present per year in Messe Düsseldorf and 40 in total in Düsseldorf including other exhibition halls in the city.  

“For 23 exhibitions we are number one in the world and they include printing, packing, medicine, plastics, workplace and fashion,” president and chief executive officer of Messe Düsseldorf GMBH Werner Matthias Dornscheidt told The Star

He said their biggest fair is the pharmaceutical fair with over 4,500 exhibitors followed by the printing and plastic fairs, which have between 1,900-3,100 exhibitors. 

SUCCESS STORY: The massive Messe Düsseldorf fair grounds where over 25 exhibitions involving printing, packing,medicine, plastics, workplace and fashion are organised in a year.

He added that such fairs or exhibitions involved a lot of logistics as heavy machinery were involved, and this could stretch preparations to six to seven times longer than the norm. 

“Some events have special needs. For example, the biggest boat exhibition is something we organise in January, and we have boats 45m in height. Sometimes we have to remove the ceiling to bring in the boats and then re-assemble them. We can have up to 1,800 of them in the halls,” added Dornscheidt. 

This reporter was present during the Gesamte Deutsche Schuhmesse (GDS) shoe fair, which is one of the top three in the world. 

Dornscheidt believes their success lies intheir ability to act fast.

In comparison to the other fairs, according to Dornscheidt, this is a smaller fair and it needs two to three days before and after to set-up and dismantle. And at the end of the fair they were already busy preparing for the next event. 

Messe Düsseldorf was founded in 1947 and currently has a workforce of over 1,400 worldwide with representation in 110 countries including Malaysia. One of the fairs organised in Malaysia by their Asian subsidiary is M-Plas, a plastics and rubber exhibition. 

Their main event venue in Düsseldorf has about 252,000sq m of exhibition space spread over 17 halls. Dornscheidt said they are building a new hall that would mean an increase of 30,000sq m. 

Last year it served 26,300 exhibitors who presented their products and services to more than 1.3 million visitors. 

If one includes the other events in Düsseldorf handled by them, at least 2.3 million visitors to the city were involved in their events. 

He added that they have 13 subsidiaries including the one for Asia with presence in Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo. They also have their own exhibition hall in Brno, Czech Republic, which is half the size of the one in Düsseldorf. 

Additionally they are partners of the Moscow Trade Fair and the Munich Trade Centre. 

Dornscheidt said they have 120 fairs and exhibitions a year all over the world. And in terms of turnover, he claimed they were number one. 

In 2005, the group had consolidated sales of ?316mil (RM1.485bil) and Messe Düsseldorf GMBH itself had generated sales of more than ?236mil(RM1.109bil). 

The biggest shareholders of Messe Düsseldorf is the city of Düsseldorf itself at 56.5%, with the state of North Rhine-Westphalia having the next big share at 20%. 

“We are not subsidised so we pay for everything ourselves. We are proud of that, as we don’t have to bother the taxpayer.  

“In Cologne for example, the city has to subsidise the cost of such fairs. We can keep the profit and the visitors to the fair help increase the revenue for everyone here like hotels and restaurants, and we attract the high-end buyers.  

“We also offer the best prices. In Moscow the rental is ?600 (RM2,820) per night while here it is between ?120-150 (RM564-705) per night. Not many also know that we are the real fashion capital in Europe, for we have 3,000 brands more than London, Paris or Milan,” said Dornscheidt. 

Messe Düsseldorf’s PR agency Modernmediapr&events head of division Thomas Kotter emphasised that Düsseldorf is at the very heart of Europe. 

“It’s practically an hour by air from all major capitals and cities of Europe. And in terms of population, it has the highest density of population in Europe with at least 11 million people in the greater Düsseldorf district,” he added. 

Dornscheidt said the time schedule is tough, as the space currently available cannot fit any more fairs. But they are looking at expanding to India, China and Latin America. 

As to how they get it right, Dornscheidt said that if something were wrong, the exhibitors wouldn’t hesitate to tell them. Dornscheidt had been with Messe Düsseldorf for 21 years, and left five years ago but in 2004 he was asked to return. 

“Before I came back there were 150 complaints a year, which is not really bad considering we have so many exhibitors a year. In 2004 there were three letters and the matter was so small it was resolved in 10 minutes,” he added. 

As to how he handles the competition, this is what he had to say. 

“We open our eyes and ears, and move a bit faster than the others. You just don’t talk about it, you have to do it.”