The Slovenia Times

Fair Enough?



How will fairs and exhibitions in Slovenia develop in the future? Mr Ante Madjar, CEO, Gospodarsko razstavisce: The Slovenian fair industry is currently in the process of forging a new image for itself. We are convinced, and have been for some time now, that our current focus in just organising fairs and exhibitions is too narrow. Once the renovations of our facilities have been completed and new hi-tech equipment installed, we will be able to convert our halls into a year-round event centre. We are aiming to become the biggest convention centre in Slovenia. Mr Franc Pangerl, CEO, Celjski sejem: The development of the fair industry in Slovenia mirrors the changes taking place within the global fair market; of which Slovenia is a part. The local fair industry has a character of regional influence, especially on SE European markets. The development of fair and exhibition facilities is also very important. Companies in neighbouring countries, especially Austria and Italy, have invested heavily in their infrastructure in recent years and their facilities are now of a higher standard. This has weakened our position a little for the moment. Mr Janez Erjavec, CEO, Pomurski sejem: The fair industry depends on the economic growth of a country and the globalization of its economy. The future looks bright for certain fairs and exhibitions in Slovenia and for their continued development. Slovenia is located at an interesting transport and economic crossroad, has a successful economy and a reasonably consumer-oriented population, which are perfect conditions for developing the fair and exhibition market. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Slovenian fair industry? Mr Franc Pangerl: We need only talk about weaknesses if we are limited to a regional market that inevitably narrows to a local market with only 2 million people, which is not enough to sustain let alone develop the local fair industry. Slovenia's economic policies are inconsistent as far as the fair industry is concerned, which makes everything unnecessarily difficult. But Slovenia has an advantage over Western countries - strong connections with the ex-Yugoslav markets. Mr Janez Erjavec: The weaknesses are a relatively small local market, insufficient competition among local companies and too few innovations. The strengths or advantages are the high quality of Slovenian products, which have proved to be highly competitive in the EU and world markets; and the increasing demand from foreign companies to promote their products in Slovenia and other markets preparing to enter the EU - markets for which Slovenia represents an important bridge to the West. Local and foreign companies still rely heavily on fairs and exhibitions, so they are far from dead. Mr Ante Madjar: Our strategic geographical position between Central Europe and the Balkans, our knowledge and historical connections with the ex-Yugoslav markets, our long-standing tradition of organizing fairs and other events as well as our location in Ljubljana, which has over 2,500 hotel beds, are the main advantages of Gospodarsko razstavisce. The fact that Slovenia is not well known in Europe and throughout the world as a convention and fair organizer is, of course, our weakness. Is the number of exhibitors growing? Mr Janez Erjavec: When you offer a potential exhibitor a good event likely to attract their target audience as well as the general public, there is no lack of interest. The number of visitors attending our fairs has increased over the last couple of years. Mr Ante Madjar: We are witnessing both trends at Gospodarsko razstavisce. Some fairs are well attended, others not. Fairs with lots of parallel activities are more interesting than the others, which is why we are trying to add some value to classical fairs by staging or sponsoring accompanying events. Mr Franc Pangerl: In the highly competitive global market, fairs are an important factor in promoting goods and services. But global markets are divided into regional markets with high-quality infrastructures and properly qualified employees. This is another example of how the economic policies of the state influence the local industry. How important to the fair industry are associated activities, such as design, marketing, promotion, parallel events, etc.? Mr Franc Pangerl: Companies with a developed vision must also have a strategy of promotion. Personally, I think that planning for fairs and exhibitions is one of the most important activities. A company's presentation at any fair is only successful if that company is well prepared. The arrangement of the exhibition space, content, market strategy and promotion - it is not an easy task for exhibitors to effectively manage all of that, but they should, if they want to successfully present themselves. Mr Ante Madjar: Parallel activities provide added value to a fair - for visitors and exhibitors. Visitors are no longer satisfied just walking and browsing through exhibition halls. They want to gain knowledge and get the latest information and they don't feel they can get that through intermediaries such as retail assistants at big shopping centres; they want need to be in direct contact with the producers and service providers. Consumers are becoming increasingly demanding about design and form, so we are doing our best to satisfy the demand. Fairs and exhibitions are often the only time a whole industry sector comes together, which is why parallel events, such as congresses, round-table discussions and seminars are so important. They are an opportunity to share opinions, experience and knowledge, and are as equally important for those who attend fairs to exhibit, promote and do business as the fairs themselves. Mr Janez Erjavec: It is not possible to organize a successful fair without additional events, like round-table discussions, lectures, conferences, wine or food tasting, presentations, competitions and award ceremonies. Our fairs are top-level business, promotional and social events. We target very specific groups of businesses, specialists and other interested audiences with additional activities, which bring quality and mass demand supported by purchasing power to the exhibitors. Independent quality rankings are a great foundation for planning and implementing promotional activities before, during and after a fair. We don't consider that a well-considered fair programme is enough to guarantee the success of our events; we plan to impress at every level including the presentation of the whole fair and every single exhibition space. Exhibitors are now working together with specialized agencies to find innovative solutions for their presentations. The exhibitors themselves invite their business partners and end users to shows, concerts, presentations, wine and food tasting and business conferences. They are increasingly aware that fairs are the only form of promotion that enables a personal approach to goods and services and a real-time relationship between offer and demand.


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