Basic Knowledge

1. Background and Fundamentals


1.1. Historical Development of Fairs & Exhibitions

  • 1.1.1. Ancient Times
  • 1.1.2. Middle Ages
  • 1.1.3. Industrial Revolution
  • 1.1.4. Current Times

1.2. Definitions and Types of Fairs & Exhibitions

  • 1.2.1. Trade Fairs vs. Exhibitions
  • 1.2.2. International, National, and Regional Fairs & Exhibitions
  • 1.2.3. Types of Fairs & Exhibitions

1.3. The Product "Fair/Exhibition"

  • 1.3.1. The Exhibition Ground or "Hardware"
  • 1.3.2. The Event and its Related Services or "Software"
  • 1.3.3. Types of Fair Organizers

1.4. The Marketing Functions of Fairs & Exhibitions

  • 1.4.1. Basic Functions
  • 1.4.2. Promoting, Launching, and Selling
  • 1.4.3. Assessing, Learning, and Interacting
  • 1.4.4. Return On Investment

1.5. Fairs & Exhibitions as an Important Factor for Economic Development


1.1. Historical Development of Fairs & Exhibitions

1.1.1. Ancient Times

The historical traditions of trade go back to Ancient Egypt, the Greek Civilization and the Roman Empire, when journeying traders met local producers in market places and bazaars.

The Romans began to host fairs from itinerant locations to permanent places, thus developing a kind of "Fair Industry". In the Bible, a fair taking place in the town of Zor (now part of Lebanon) is mentioned in the Old Testament ("Ezekiel", Chapter 27). Herod King of Judea (37-4 B.C.) was the first to build a permanent fair centre (3,200 m2) with a wall around it, located in the town of Botana, and where archaeologists found evidence (coins mainly) indicating that visitors of this fair centre came from Syria, Egypt, Italy, Greece, Spain and France.


1.1.2. Middle Ages

The term "fair", which was only used for the first time in the Middle Ages, comes from the Latin word "feria", meaning a religious festival, usually taking place near a convent or a church. The same sense is to be found in the term currently used in German - "Messe", which derives from the Latin term "Missa", or religious service, at which the priest, on pronouncing the final words "ite, Missa est", declared the religious service at an end, thus giving the sign for the opening of the market, usually held in the church square. The first fair of this kind was the "Foire de Saint Denis" near Paris, founded by King Dagobert in 629, and which by 710 was already attracting more than 700 merchants.

The first fair which had not only cash-and-carry products, but also production means, was the Leipzig fair (Germany) held in year 1165.

Records found in the archives of the city of Utrecht (The Netherlands) also indicate that Bishop Godebald gave the city a charter in 1127, which included the permit to organize "fairs" outside of the town ramparts. At that time, the city of Utrecht already organized 4 fairs annually.


1.1.3. Industrial Revolution

The process of industrialization, which began in the 18th century, required new sales and distribution channels, thus affecting the trade fair business.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, fairs indeed evolved from sites for direct sales to sites displaying a broad range of available goods: only samples of much more diverse product ranges were exhibited. These fairs were known as Sample Fairs (from the German "Mustermesse"), initiated for the first time by the Leipzig Fair. These sample fairs, with a wide range of investment and consumer goods, dominated the fair scene in Europe up to the middle of the 20th century.

In addition, at the end of the 19th century, and in the early decades of the 20th century, numerous exhibitions of national significance were organized, mostly dedicated to a specific theme, for example electricity, health or mechanical engineering, and primarily aimed at the general public.


1.1.4. Current Times

After the Second World War, the fair business started following the trend of rising specialization of the economy. A large amount of specialized fairs, and consequently a broader diversity of fair locations, arose.

Despite the emergence of high-speed, electronic communications methods during the 20th century, fairs today - as temporary marketplaces - continue to rank as one of the most dynamic and effective sales and marketing tools in existence. Fairs, as a complex mixture of information, communication and entertainment, are truly the only marketing communications media allowing the full exploitation of all five senses in an environment of face-to-face interaction.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the fair business is characterised by a continuously growing supply of fairs and exhibitions: fair organizers enlarge their field of activities on a worldwide level, while being engaged in international co operations.



1.2. Definitions and Types of Fairs & Exhibitions

1.2.1. Trade Fairs vs. Exhibitions

There are many understandings and definitions of trade fairs and exhibitions. However, the following are generally and widely admitted.

Trade fairs are market events of a specific duration, held at intervals, at which a large number of companies present the main product range of one or more industry sectors and mainly sell it on the basis of samples. Trade Fairs predominantly attract trade and business visitors.

Exhibitions are market events of a specific duration, held at intervals, at which a large number of companies present a representative product range of one or more industry sectors and sell it or provide information about it for the purposes of sales promotion. Exhibitions predominantly attract the general public.


1.2.2. International, National, and Regional Fairs & Exhibitions

UFI has established the following criteria for defining the internationality of a trade fair/exhibition.

To be recognized as an international trade fair/exhibition, the number of direct foreign exhibitors must be at least 10% of the total number of exhibitors or the number of foreign visits or visitors must represent at least 5% of the total number of visits or visitors, respectively. For public fairs, this percentage is to be counted on the basis of professional visits or visitors, if they are identified.

Non-international trade fairs/exhibitions can be classified as national (i.e. visitors coming from areas extending beyond a given region) or regional (i.e. visitors coming from a specific province or county).


1.2.3. Types of Fairs & Exhibitions

Trade fairs/exhibitions of capital goods display machinery and related services needed in the manufacturing industry.

Trade fairs/exhibitions of consumer goods display products and services dedicated to the public and end-consumers.

A specialized trade fair/exhibition denotes a thematically concentrated fair for trade and business visitors.

A multi-branch trade fair/exhibition displays offers of more than one business sector.

A general trade fair/exhibition displays a mix of all areas of life.

A corporate exhibition displays the products or services of only one manufacturer, one wholesale dealer or one purchasing pool.

With the growth of Internet, virtual fairs have been recently developed, allowing permanent displays of products and services online, but they do not (and will never) replace physical fairs.



1.3. The Product "Fair/Exhibition"

1.3.1. The Exhibition Ground or "Hardware"

Is considered as "hardware" all what is related to the exhibition ground, including halls and open-air areas.

The exhibition halls have to provide all necessary supply sources for electricity, water, gas, and communication connections (telephone, ISDN, Internet), as well as clear and unambiguous signage system. It is generally admitted that one-storey alls are more convenient for exhibiting than multi-storey halls.

Infrastructures like restaurants, parking areas (separated between exhibitors and visitors), toilets, and entrance areas are integral parts of an exhibition ground.

As more and more meetings and congresses are held beside fairs & exhibitions, appropriate room facilities are also being part of the hardware.


1.3.2. The Event and its Related Services or "Software"

Is considered as "software" all what is related to the trade fair/exhibition itself and the related services provided to exhibitors and visitors (stand construction services, technical services, freight forwarding, catering, security, insurance, cleaning, hostess services, medical assistance, etc).

Are also considered as "software", the related services provided by the city (hotel accommodation, entertainment and leisure, cultural offers - museums, theatres, opera, concerts -, restaurants and bars, shops and department stores, etc).


1.3.3. Types of Fair Organizers

Independent organizers of fairs/exhibitions rent the appropriate exhibition space to a fairground owner for hosting their events.

Some not-for-profit federations or associations might organize their own fairs in a joint venture with private fair companies.

In many cases, fairground owners can also be exhibition organizers. Usually, the city is the owner of the fairground.

Nowadays, traditional and long-experienced European fair companies are starting joint ventures with foreign fair organizations located in regions like the Middle East or the Asia/Pacific. For example, German fair organizers are exporting their fairs to these areas, or they take part in joint ventures regarding the construction of new exhibition centres (such as the cooperation between Shanghai and Düsseldorf/Munich/Hanover).



1.4. The Marketing Functions of Fairs & Exhibitions

1.4.1. Basic Functions

The basic functions of every fair or exhibition is to join supply and demand, provide information, and show technical trends and developments, all in one time and in one place, using face-to-face communication.

Fairs and exhibitions are a unique opportunity for achieving trade objectives, because they are the most efficient way to reach a complete market audience and do business all in one shot.

Fairs and exhibitions are also an indicator of economic and market trends, because they reflect market procedures, types and scopes of market changes, as well as directions and speed of future developments. Fairs & exhibitions are more than just a marketing tool, they are an entire market place.

The function of fairs to serve as a place for personal contacts and face-to-face communication will remain of fundamental importance in the times of increasing use of telecommunication means, new media, and Internet.


1.4.2. Promoting, Launching, and Selling

Fairs and exhibitions are the right pace to achieve fundamentals trade objectives, as they give the opportunity to:

  • Win new customers and collect high quality leads,
  • Entertain existing and loyal customers,
  • Renew contacts with past customers,
  • Launch new products or services,
  • Show and promote full range of products or services,
  • Accelerate the selling process, and generate sales,
  • Build and increase company and brand image,
  • Consolidate public relations,
  • Generate media interest.

The major surveys carried out on this issue prove that fairs and exhibitions are more effective than any other tools to achieve all these goals at once. (graphs)


1.4.3. Assessing, Learning, and Interacting

Fairs and exhibitions are the most cost-effective way to be directly in the heart of a business sector, because apart from doing business, they enable to:

  • Learn more about the clients' and prospects' expectations,
  • Get immediate feedback on product range and corporate image,
  • Build and enlarge prospects' database,
  • Research the market and competition, and assess market potentials,
  • Keep up-to-date with innovations and new technologies,
  • Maintain a presence in the marketplace,
  • Locate possible agents and distributors,
  • Initiate cooperation, alliances, and joint ventures,
  • Recruit new staff.

In terms of market knowledge and corporate positioning, statistics show that fairs and exhibitions fulfil these main expectations all in one site. (graphs)


1.4.4. Return On Investment

Fairs and Exhibitions generate a high Return On Investment, because the invested amounts of time and money will be greatly refunded. In addition, costs spent in the selling process are worth more when backed by fairs and exhibitions.

CEIR study has shown that exhibition leads cost 56% less to close than field sales calls. (graphs)



1.5. Fairs & Exhibitions as an Important Factor for Economic Development

Beside the expenses related to the participation in a fair itself, both exhibitors and visitors spend large amount of money during a fair for accommodation, restaurants, transportation, entertainment and other indirect services. These expenses do not only increase the profits of the local businesses, but they also have positive effects on local employment while increasing tax revenues.

Studies have shown that half of the exhibitors' expenses remain in the exhibition city or its surroundings, and that a visitor spends between 200 and 350 US$ per day in the city. It is also estimated that a fair brings six times the organizer's revenue into the city/region. This effect is called "indirect profitability".

In addition, fairs and exhibitions serve as a stimulus for the national industries and as a means for improving the technological know-how and equipment, as well as enhancing the import/export activities, especially for the less developed countries.




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