Q&A with Wolfgang Marzin, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Messe Frankfurt

MEDIA 7 | September 21, 2020

Wolfgang Marzin, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Messe Frankfurt is the Member of the Board of Directors of AUMA (Association of the German Trade Fair Industry); Member of the Board of Directors of UFI (Global Association of the Exhibition Industry), Member of the Executive Committee of the German Chamber of Commerce in Austria.

Media 7: You have been the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Messe Frankfurt GmbH for ten years now. How has Messe Frankfurt changed during your tenure as a CEO? What have been logistically the most promising, yet the most challenging project for you so far and why?
Wolfgang Marzin:
Over the past ten years, Messe Frankfurt has strengthened and expanded its status as a global player in the events sector. Sales have almost doubled and around 1000 employees have been added. We have also established numerous trade fairs and events around the globe and acquired many new customers and partners.  In addition, we are continuously investing in our home venue Frankfurt and are strategically developing the exhibition centre. We have intensified our commitment to complementary supplementary formats in virtual form, as these are becoming increasingly important in the marketing mix.

2020 has brought us an exceptional year, which presents the entire event industry with unprecedented challenges. We are therefore all the more pleased that events have been held in China again since July, and our first trade fair in Germany, Nordstil, was also held successfully at the beginning of September.

M7: Recently, Messe Frankfurt celebrated its 780th anniversary. It's incredible! Can you tell us about your company's strengths and core values? How does Messe Frankfurt offer consistent quality at all of its events?
WM:
The greatest success factor in our 780-year history of trade fairs in Frankfurt is personal contact. Our aim is to provide our customers and partners with the best possible platforms for their business encounters - in Frankfurt and worldwide. This includes reliable quality standards, which we implement at all our events, as well as consistently high quality and flexibility in the planning, organisation and implementation of events. A major strength of Messe Frankfurt is its international orientation and global networking.

The group of companies includes a powerful global network of around 30 subsidiaries and more than 50 sales partners, responsible for 188 countries. We are there for our customers at home and abroad. With customised solutions and concepts, the individual events are tailored to the different regions in terms of space and time. Economic conditions, the diversity of cultures and religions, climatic conditions and, last but not least, an infrastructure that does not always meet international quality standards pose challenges. This is why it is so important for us to work with committed colleagues on site who are familiar with the linguistic and cultural conditions and special features of the regions.


"The success of events also depends on how the situation in air travel, rail and public transport is regulated and how far travel restrictions are lifted."

M7: What do you think is the current growth rate of the exhibition industry and future trends that you foresee?
WM:
The events industry was hit hard by the outbreak of the Corona pandemic. We all have to adapt to completely new conditions. However, we are more convinced than ever of our business model of personal encounters: the current situation in particular makes it clear how important it is for people to meet each other. The economy needs trade fairs to market its products. This is why we are optimistic about the future, but plan "for the long term", as the situation remains volatile.

At the same time, we are continuing to develop our platforms: supplementary formats in virtual form will also play a major role in the future, and our upcoming events are also based on this. Hypermotion 2020 in Frankfurt, for example, offers digital features such as live streaming, matchmaking and chat functions, which enable hybrid as well as purely digital participation. ISH 2021 will also be extended by a comprehensive digital supplementary programme, which will ensure networking of all participants and maximum coverage - this way exhibitors will also reach those customers who are unable to participate physically.

M7: Messe Frankfurt aims to reach 2019 sales levels again by 2023. We appreciate that spirit. What has/will help your group to win over the corona virus crisis?
WM:
Sustainable growth such as that achieved in the 2019 financial year will help us to overcome the crisis: strong in operations and with many records for key performance indicators. For Messe Frankfurt, the temporary lockdown in the trade fair business is not a business standstill. We are working on the future of Messe Frankfurt, preparing for change and aligning our products accordingly. It is not yet clear when we will resume regular trade fair operations in Germany, but Nordstil, the first trade fair, was successfully held in early September.

The success of events also depends on how the situation in air travel, rail and public transport is regulated and how far travel restrictions are lifted. We adapt to the current conditions and are ready with sophisticated safety and hygiene measures. Our mission will remain the same: to offer the industry the best possible meeting platforms to present their high-quality products worldwide.


"Complementary supplementary formats in virtual form are gaining importance in the marketing mix, especially in times of the corona pandemic."

M7: Recently, Messe Frankfurt South Africa acquired Hobby-X. How does this addition complement the international portfolio of Messe Frankfurt?
WM:
First and foremost, the acquisition of Hobby-X shows that we are investing in the future even in the current economically challenging times and that our belief in personal contact is unbroken. With around 140 exhibitors from the hobby, craft and leisure industry and over 14,500 trade and public visitors, the event is a great addition to our event portfolio in South Africa. At the same time, Hobby-X fits into Messe Frankfurt's international portfolio in the consumer goods sector, which includes the annual Creativeworld and Christmasworld trade fairs in Frankfurt, as well as Paperworld in Frankfurt, Shanghai, Dubai and Mumbai.

M7: Messe Frankfurt sits third in the global rankings of turnover of trade fair organizers. Tell us which countries apart from Germany have brought Messe Frankfurt significant business success?
WM:
For over 30 years we have been working on behalf of our customers in the global growth markets. Since 1998 we have been present in India with Messe Frankfurt Trade Fairs India in the financial and business metropolis of Mumbai - Techtextil India, Light India, Secutech India and ACMA Automechanika New Delhi are among the flagships of their respective sectors. The Indian subcontinent is part of Messe Frankfurt's growth strategy, which aims to continuously develop its brands and open up new sectors. India has one of the strongest economies in the world.

Growth is driven by strong domestic demand. The subcontinent is, demographically speaking, very young, the economy is strongly oriented towards domestic consumption and benefits from an ascending middle class. In China, we are one of the few foreign trade fair companies to have been present and represented throughout the country since the 1980s, with headquarters in Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Beijing and Shenzhen. This advantage of early market introduction is an important USP in international competition. With additional subsidiaries in Japan, Korea and Taiwan, Messe Frankfurt is one of the few foreign organisers in a position to hold events throughout Asia. Our commitment abroad also pays off for the events in Frankfurt. More than three quarters of the exhibitors and over half of the visitors at the group's trade fairs come from outside Germany.


"One of the most important lessons to be learned from digital events is that they cannot replace physical meeting platforms."

M7: Trade fair marketing is becoming more diversified. Can you shed light on the development of digital trade fair marketing at Messe Frankfurt?
WM:
Complementary supplementary formats in virtual form are gaining importance in the marketing mix, especially in times of the corona pandemic. This is shown, for example, by the large growth in the digital B2B marketplace "Nextrade" for the Home & Living industry. There, our customers have the opportunity to maintain their order management and cultivate business relationships.

The platform was also used very actively before the Corona pandemic, and is currently experiencing significant growth: more than 2,100 retailers and 300,000 articles are currently registered. Another digital supplement for trade fairs is Automechanika Frankfurt, where traditionally certified industry workshops are offered. To enable our customers to take advantage of these despite the postponement of the event, some of the training sessions will be realised in video format. Similar activities are also realised at our subsidiaries around the globe.

M7: If you could change one thing about the world of exhibitions, what would it be?
WM:
My current wish is that we will once again be able to do what we do best: offer the industries high-quality meeting platforms. There is no doubt that trade fairs are needed. After the months of the lockdown and the subsequent restrictions, the need for replacement is higher than ever before. One of the most important lessons to be learned from digital events is that they cannot replace physical meeting platforms. Although digital supplements contribute good communication values to our trade fairs, they are not an alternative to personal encounters. Sustainable business relationships and the huge economic turnover they generate only work face-to-face.

ABOUT MESSE FRANKFURT

Messe Frankfurt is the world’s largest trade fair, congress and event organiser with its own exhibition grounds. With about 2,600 employees at 29 locations, the company generates annual sales of around €736 million. We have close ties with our industry sectors and serve our customers’ business interests efficiently within the framework of our Fairs & Events, Locations and Services business fields. One of the Group’s key USPs is its closely knit global sales network, which extends throughout the world.

Our comprehensive range of services – both onsite and online – ensures that customers worldwide enjoy consistently high quality and flexibility when planning, organising and running their events. The wide range of services includes renting exhibition grounds, trade fair construction and marketing, personnel and food services. Headquartered in Frankfurt am Main, the company is owned by the City of Frankfurt (60 percent) and the State of Hesse (40 percent).

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Messe Frankfurt

Messe Frankfurt

Messe Frankfurt is the world’s largest trade fair, congress and event organiser with its own exhibition grounds. With about 2,600 employees at 29 locations, the company generates annual sales of around €736 million. We have close ties with our industry sectors and serve our customers’ business inter...

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