Trade Fairs Don’t Die – They Are Reborn!

It is a hot topic in the media and on the job market right now: we are seeing fewer and fewer trade fairs and more of them seem to be closing their doors each year. We took a close look at this phenomenon and discovered that trade fairs don’t die – they just change. Fresh ideas and creative inspiration are giving rise to new concepts. And new ideas – that’s exactly our thing!

It’s true that the trade fair landscape is undergoing change at the moment and is getting more sparse. Classic trade fair formats with exhibitors who merely present their products seem to have lost their charm in times of online shopping. In 2018, Züspa – which in its heyday would see 300,000 visitors flocking to it – announced that it was closing. This is also the last year that muba in Basel will be taking place. After 103 years, the “mother of all trade fairs” will open its doors for the last time. We also supported our long-standing client muba with their final event and found that the people of Basel are saddened by the end of Switzerland’s oldest fair. We went around collecting farewell messages from celebrities, some of which you can read on muba’s website.

But it’s by no means all trade fairs that are having a tough time. With the Swiss-Moto fair (21-24 February 2019) and the Criterion Festival (28-31 March 2019), another of our customers, the MCH Group, is showing the world that trade fairs are definitely still happening right now. Christoph Kamber, Head of Swiss Exhibition, is confident: “Züspa was the most important trade fair, the place to be, 30 years ago. Now there is an influx of highly segmented events with specific themes. In addition, Züspa and muba have given rise to several smaller events. If you were to combine all of this into one trade fair, you would realize that the offering is much bigger than it was 30 years ago.”

Bike gathering Swiss-Moto: much more than a trade fair
The biggest Swiss motorbike, scooter and tuning show, the 16th Swiss-Moto will take place from 21 to 24 February this year. Four days of hot bikes, loud engines and cool bikers in leather jackets – or is this just a cliché? Not quite – although you will naturally see the hottest rides and the longest beards at Swiss-Moto every year, the entire industry and thousands of fans also get together at this event at the start of the biking season. And they come every year. No wonder that with over 891,000 two-wheelers, Switzerland is the country with the largest motorcycle density in Europe. As a special-interest trade fair, Swiss-Moto has an audience that stays true to its event. They live for their passion, motor biking, and always remain curious. Over the years, Swiss-Moto has become much more than a trade fair. 

Criterion, a prime example of a festival with a future
The Criterion Festival plays a pioneering role in the trade fair landscape of today. Criterion was first held in 2018 and truly reflected the spirit of the times, with conscious consumption becoming increasingly important and sustainability a priority. Nowadays, many people want to make their lifestyle more sustainable – and Criterion helps by showing you how to do so and – above all – in how many areas of your life. This is a completely new approach that replaces the classic concept of a trade fair with the mentality of a festival. Criterion is much more interactive than a conventional trade fair and uses different forms of presentation. The focus here is more on information and experience than on selling.

The latest generation of trade fairs are all about lifestyle. It is designed to serve a community that seeks to combine design and sustainability. “It’s not about food and drink or living or fashion, it’s about everything. It’s a philosophy,” says Christoph Kamber, Head of Messe Schweiz.

Impression Criterion
Impression of the first Criterion Festival in 2018. © Alan Maag

Criterion visitors can watch how a product is created, ask questions and also participate interactively. Visiting workshops, cooking in a food studio or watching over the shoulders of sign writers in the sign painting studio – all this and much more makes Criterion truly an experience. The festival is also a platform for inventive and lateral thinkers, with Speakers’ Corner becoming a kind of forum.

One thing we are sure of is that Criterion has potential. We are proud to have such a motivated customer and we are happy to enrich this new concept with our ideas. Because the fact is, the trade fair industry is not dead – far from it. It is alive and well, constantly changing and therefore all the more interesting to us. Because we love changes and challenges!