Food for thought: Truly international

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    Louise YoungMD, Home and Gift at Emap Connect There isn’t a minimum number of visitors required to qualify for international show status, although attendance should surely be in the thousands rather than in the hundreds. However, it does take time to establish a show on the international calendar. Any UK show organiser who is building an international proposition and investing to attract overseas visitors deserves as much encouragement as possible – after all, they are helping UK exports. It’s not an easy job to draw visitors to our island – we envy our continental counterparts who can pull in buyers from neighbouring countries as easily as we attract visitors from London to Birmingham.  More UK exhibitors at established British shows are looking for export opportunities and are tempted to trial overseas events. This increases pressure to deliver more international visitors. But to do this effectively usually means diverting budget or additional investment.  Equally, UK buyers want to see more international exhibitors, which is important if we are to retain their custom. To achieve this, we all know it is vital to have an effective sales agent network and/or a direct international sales team.  Internationalising the brand is, I believe, key to the future relevance and subsequent growth of many established UK shows. This is certainly a key part of our five-year plan, which has seen heavy investment in Spring Fair International. So how can cities like Birmingham and London join with show organisers in welcoming and hosting international visitors? It’s a question we are often asked by our exhibitors.   Messe Dusseldorf and Messe Frankfurt manage to work in a seamless manner with their respective cities to arrange travel and hotel accommodation for buyers. These councils recognise the value of the business traveller to their local economy.  A UK city that visibly welcomes international trade visitors will add that final stamp of international standing that show organisers crave. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Paul WoodwardMD, Global exhibition association UFI The idea of an international exhibition sits 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 rapidly and that a benchmark needed to be set. People were travelling across Europe to supposedly international exhibitions that turned out to be nothing of the sort. The best clubbed together under the UFI banner 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 for a fair to be international. It can be overseas exhibitors (at least 10 per cent). It can be visitors from other countries (at least 5 per cent). The most international events include both. These benchmarks are enshrined in UFI’s globally-recognised rules and, more recently, in the ISO 25639 international 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. Of course, it’s rather easier to claim to be an international exhibition in a small, land-locked market like (extreme example) Luxembourg than it is in the US, Russia or China. But the UFI standards do seem to stand the test of scrutiny by those for whom this is important. And why is it important? For the same reason it was over 85 years ago. If you are promoting your business internationally and you decide (wisely we’d say) to use an international exhibition for that, it will be a serious investment for your company. You want to be certain that investment in travel and shipping will be worthwhile. That’s what our standards are for and why our members’ events are highly respected. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Murray EllisMD, National Boat Shows I would say that an international show is dependent on two factors: The number of international exhibitors and the number of international visitors.  I don’t believe there is any particular rule to comply with and not really any exact list of boxes to tick to qualify as being an international show.  When it comes down to it, I believe it’s simply about the international representation of both exhibitors and visitors. Organisers should ask themselves if their show is a representation of the UK alone or of all over the world – and what percentage of each? If it’s more than just the UK, then I believe an organiser is valid in describing its show as international. Using the word international in the show title is also subjective. And event organisers 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 do seem to use it more. Continuing in the same market, organisers 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. Some organisers also tend to use it as a labelling exercise. They think giving your show the tag of international inflates its status and generates more gravitas but if your show is successful and strong enough, it doesn’t need the label. I believe a show’s reputation is more impactful than its title; plus you can’t make a show feel international if it isn’t, as it’s not simply about the dressing. This is the rationale we’ve used with our Tullett Prebon London Boat Show and PSP Southampton Boat Show. Over the years, we have used the word international in our show titles but both are now very established events, in their 58th and 43rd years respectively, with a strong international representation by exhibitors and visitors. Any comments? Email exhibitionnews@mashmedia.net
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