The International Exhibition

Title: The International Exhibition


Paul Woodward
Former Managing Director UFI

The idea of an international exhibition sites at the very heart of what UFI is about. Even when our 20 founding members came together in 1925 they were concerned the number of events branded ‘international’ was proliferating and that a benchmark needed to be set. People were travelling across Europe to international exhibition that turn out to be nothing of the sort. The best clubbed together under UFI and still do today.

Our standards and benchmarks have evolved across the years and, although relatively simple, still provide a robust test of what it means to be international. It can be overseas exhibitors (at least 10 percent). The most international events include both. These benchmarks are enshrined in UFI’s globally recognized rules and in the more recent ISO 25639 standard.

As multinational companies have evolved in recent years, identifying an international exhibitor has become more complicated. Siemens in china, for example, employs tens of thousands of local staff and typically participates in trade fairs there through its local subsidiary. Technically, we say that’s not an international exhibitor. We also don’t allow local agents or distributors representing overseas brands to claim they’re international exhibitors.

Why is it important? For the same reason it was in 1925. If you are promoting your business internationally and you decide to use an international exhibition, it is a serious investment for your company. You want to be certain that will be worthwhile. UFI’s standards are well respected.

Theo Lingmont
Director INTL Exhibitions Amsterdam RAI, Holland

This is a very interesting topics as international shows represent a major share of our business. Several large international trade shows such as IBC, PLMA, Hortifair and IS Europe have chosen the RAI venue and the city of Amsterdam as their home base. Half the international events staged in our convention center are organized by RAI Exhibitions.

Moreover, we export a number of our brands into strategic markets around the world. Since we also have a large portfolio of national events, a clear and fair definition of national and international is of significant importance.

In general the share of foreign visitors at an international event is larger than the foreign visitor representation. This in itself makes sense as the time investment for a national visit is less demanding and often more staff of the same company or organization will use the opportunity to see what’s on offer.

Our international events in general have a minimum of 40 per cent international visitor attendance and 60 per cent foreign exhibitors, which has become our personal standard. Some of our shows easily surpass these criteria. For example the Intertraffic Amsterdam scope of international visitors is 64 per cent and of the exhibitors, 83 per cent and of the exhibitors, 83 per cent come from abroad. Our regional spin-offs have a fair share of international exhibitor attendance but are obviously mainly targeting a national visitor audience.

Indeed we see shows around the world label themselves international where only a very small percentage of attendance on both exhibitor and visitor level is from abroad. This is confusing and sometimes misleading for potential participants.

We would welcome a clear definition with slightly more ambitious figures to give transparency to the market and boost the image of the sector.

Murray Ellis
Managing Director
National Boat Shows
, UK

I would say an international show is depend on two factors:

The number of international exhibitors
The number of international visitors

Using the word international in the show title is also subjective and event organizers add it in for varying reasons. In the boat show market, a number of European shows don’t tend to use the word international while those located in America, Australia and Asia appear to use it more.

Organizers with new shows tend to use the word international more often than not. But long-running shows don’t need to, nor do shows that already have a strong profile.

I Believe in:

Show’s reputation is more is more impactful than its title; plus you can’t make a show feel international if it isn’t. This is the rational we’ve used with our TullettPrebon London Boat Show and PSP Southampton Boat Show. Over the years we have used the word international but both are now very established events, in their 58th and 43rd years respectively.

Edward Liu
CEMS, Singapore

In Singapore, we generally define an international show as an event that has at least 20 per cent international exhibitors and at least four per cent international visitors. This definition may not be universally accepted as different countries and associations have their own benchmarks for calling their exhibitions international.

For a show to be called international, I would expect that the number of exhibitors and visitors would truly represent a cross section of countries from Asia, Europe, and North America. At the same time, I would also expect the look and feel the exhibition to global and functional exuding a business-like ambience and environment.

The organizer’s aspirations would have a lots to do with the attainment of such a vision.

Personally, I think it would be helpful and useful for certain international standards to be clearly spelt out and embraced by all in exhibition industry. Such standards would eliminate disputes and misunderstandings between organizer and participants.

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