Fewer visitors at the Bologna shows

21 November 2005

The consensus of opinion regarding the Bologna shows, Lineapelle and Tanning Tech, is that there were fewer visitors but that the quality was high. As usual when times are hard, the time-wasters stayed away and only those focused on doing business bothered to show up. One regular who has been exhibiting for years writes: 'My personal opinion is that this was - for once - a good fair for many participants (I refer to Lineapelle) and that is of much more importance since the prospects were very negative. But then - as these fairs/exhibitions go - what's good for one is not necessarily good for his neighbour.' The big surprise was that the Lineapelle magazine devoted an article to complaining about Bologna and the high prices and poor infrastructure. This started rumours that next year the show will be back in Milan. It is much more likely to be a warning to Bologna that if they do not improve their service, the show might well decide to relocate and take their business elsewhere. Over at Tanning Tech, the story was much the same, only more so. There were definitely fewer visitors and depressed business and the exhibition was much reduced with some of the biggest names, BASF, LANXESS, Stahl and others staying away and machinery manufacturers reducing the amount of space taken. The show occupied one less hall than last year but retained the two they gained from Lineapelle that year which offers the light and air missing from the traditional Hall 34. Despite much gloom, because Europe really is in the doldrums, there were still companies who felt that Tanning Tech was delivering what they needed. Forestal Mimosa/Mimosa Africa said they had seen all the people they wanted or expected to see. What was missing were the onlookers who, in the past, have wandered by and gone onto the stand out of curiosity. And at the other end of the spectrum, drum and automation specialists Olcina also said they had seen all the people they normally see. However, we heard reports that there had been some requests from exhibitors that the fair be reduced to three days to fall in line with Lineapelle or even become a biennial show. It should be borne in mind that Tanning Tech is the only real show in global terms where not only can you see demonstrations of new technology but you can also visit tanneries in the area to see working machines in situ. The European tanning industry needs Tanning Tech to showcase the latest in technology. It is true that the bigger companies together have the power to seriously undermine and even close shows but even they sometimes admit to regretting the closure of SIC where they could see all their customers at one time and under one roof. Although exhibitors in neighbouring Lineapelle were largely satisfied with the level of business done at this edition of the exhibition, with traditional clients as well as a few new ones visiting their stands, there appear to be other issues to be addressed. The Lineapelle magazine accuses the township of Bologna as being guilty of losing business for Lineapelle because of the doubling or even trebling of hotel prices, the minimum stay clauses, the late trains, the gridlocked motorway. After years of claiming that the rail network and special coaches allowed exhibitors and visitors alike to stay as far away as Florence, Empoli, Modena etc, they have finally admitted that the hotel situation is keeping people away. I think that the fair will be in Bologna next year but that the organisers are sending the local authorities a very clear message that they need to address their prices and service. The post-show press release issued by Assomac attributed lower visitor numbers to Italy's bureaucratic and exclusive immigration policies which make it a major undertaking for an operator from a developing country to obtain a visa for Italy. Those who invite them must become guarantors of their guests' future. Tanning Tech experienced this first hand when it invited numerous expert delegations from developing countries. Assomac claim that in the light of this and rising costs of 'logistics' conspiring against them, Tanning Tech can be seen as successful. 'The small fall in visitor numbers witnessed is a clear sign that the event is 'holding water'. It is equally clear that without the aforementioned difficulties, we could well be speaking of a slight - or considerable- increase in visitor numbers!' The articles in Lineapelle magazine make for extremely interesting reading. There have been discussions in the past apparently but, 'after the talks, the meetings and - inevitably - the dinners they went back home, that is to Milan, almost embarrassed, feeling that they had unjustly accused friendly people.' Complaints have almost stopped now, not because the situation has been rectified but because many have had enough and are staying at home. Yet this is a huge fair which brings a great deal of business to the town twice a year and the message received by the fair organisers seems to be: 'Lineapelle is of no importance to us and it can just clear off.'

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