Every year, since 2015, World Trade Fair Day, also known as Global Exhibition Day, has been held in the first week of July to celebrate the role of trade fairs around the world. It is organised by the UFI, the international association for the trade fair industry.
There are special days throughout the year set aside for every aspect of our lives, for our rights, for those of other groups, nature, science, technology and culture, but one dedicated to trade fairs is more than just another day. It is a day devoted to underlining the importance of trade and exchange, of the meetings that make it possible and the wealth it creates. It shows that trade, business and knowledge are all inseparable today.
A new meaning
It hardly needs saying that this day acquires a whole new meaning in 2020. In normal circumstances, trade fairs and events are essential for trade, the introduction and spread of new ideas and for stimulating regional industries and services. They are a meeting place for all sectors of the economy and vital for small and medium sized companies. In the wake of the pandemic, we have to add to this list that of an economic motor that contributes to the reactivation of the economy and the productive sector.
Everyone agrees on this role. This is why a clear and straightforward message has been chosen as the motto of Global Exhibition Day 2020 and shared by trade fairs and convention centres in up to 90 countries: Fairs are key to rebuilding economies.
The trade fair industry is also offering its services to all economic sectors, companies, professionals and entrepreneurs to create, in complete safety and with full protection, meeting places for commerce, innovation and knowledge that help to drive opportunities for expanding trade and business, which is so necessary at the moment. Fairs are a vital part of our social and economic recovery, an effective way to stimulate business.
It should be remembered that there are around 32,000 trade fairs every year, with nearly five million companies taking part and 303 million visitors, and they create 3.2 million jobs. The turnover of the global trade fair business is 275,100 million euros, and the sector’s contribution to global GDP is 167,200 million euros, a figure that is higher than some countries’ contributions. In the midst of technological change and the growth of ICT, the personal contact and networking offered by fairs is a factor which is greatly appreciated.
Everything is ready
Now is the time to restart, to recover a normality that will doubtless have a new flavour. Fira is preparing its return to business for September, adapted to the new context and ready to act as an economic motor for the region.
It is a good time to remember that the situation created by the Covid-19 pandemic forced Fira de Barcelona, like other trade fair operators, to reschedule its events calendar, shifting lots of events back into the last third of the year. Valmont Barcelona Bridal Fashion Week (VBBFW), Bizbarcelona, Liber, Salo Nàutic, Alimentaria FoodTech, Alimentaria, Smart City Expo World Congress, and Expoquimia, Eurosurfas and Equiplast are, with others, among the trade fairs that will be held at this time.
To make this possible, Fira de Barcelona is working with a specific protocol to apply the strictest safety and prevention measures to its employees, exhibitors, visitors, organizers and participants in the events.
The new normality for trade fairs means, in some cases, a new kind of trade fairs with hybrid models that combine virtual participation with physical attendance, to offer a new experience and the chance to reach a larger audience.
Promotion and support for industry
Today’s trade fairs had their origins in the international exhibitions held in the middle of the 19th and first third of the 20th centuries. Most of them were magnificent stages for promoting the inventions and industrial technologies that started in London in 1851. Paris and London were the main protagonists, but Barcelona also held a Universal Exhibition in 1888 and an International Exhibition in 1929: on both of these occasions the fair contributed to the growth and drive of the city.
In the darkest of times for Barcelona, trade fairs have been tools to support the productive fabric, trade and the city’s own self-respect. In the long period that followed the Spanish Civil War in 1939, the Fira de Mostres de Barcelona – which was active up to 1992 – was a space for reviving a shattered and degraded industrial sector. During the oil crisis of 1973 and especially during the financial crisis that began in 2008, Fira de Barcelona had a prominent role as a support for the industrial and commercial sectors of the city, its hinterland and the country as a whole.