Hamburg venue finance chief: 'Challenges will last beyond 2023'

Venues /  / 
Hamburg Messe und Congress Photo Credit: Hamburg Messe und Congress / Rolf Otzipka

The operator of one of Europe’s newest convention centres has offered a glimpse into the tough trading conditions faced by meeting venues - despite sales rebounding to historic highs.

Hamburg Messe und Congress (HMC), which runs the Convention Centre Hamburg (CCH) on behalf of the city, posted the second highest revenues in the group’s history, €108.7m, but still made a €15.2m loss.

Some of that can be put down to the Omicron variant of Covid-19, which forced a number of cancellations in the first quarter of 2022, when only one trade fair took place at the venue.

But it was only one of several external factors creating a challenging headwind for venues.

Most publicly funded convention centres are designed to run at an operating loss, the trade-off being the receipts they generate for the city in business tourism. Even so, HMC chief finance officer Uwe Fischer pointed to a string of challenges facing meeting venues right now.

“The impact of the pandemic, supply chain disruption, the Russian attack on Ukraine and the enormous inflation rates, especially in the services sector, are felt in many places and will continue to affect us in 2023 and probably in the coming years, as well,” he said.

HMC, which also runs the trade fair grounds, had expected €122.8m in ‘pandemic-adjusted’ sales  for the year 2022, but downgraded to €97.1m to account for the continued effects of Covid-19.

This year, HMC is expecting sales of €73.1m, the highest it will ever have recorded in an odd year. But because of high leasing and write-down costs for the exhibition halls, along with rising personnel, maintenance and energy costs, the annual result is once again predicted to be negative.

But there was some good news.

In its first year, the CCH hosted 42 events, with a heavy slant towards medical association conferences, of which a fourth were international. And after a wobbly start, there was strong momentum in the second half of the year with back-to-back events. Across all its events, including 12 trade fairs and 30 guest events, HMC welcomed 10,083 exhibiting companies and 488,675 guests, including 66,115 participants in 2023.

“I am very proud of our staff and thankful for this great year. Despite the high workload, the enthusiasm about being able to resume operations was palpable among our visitors, exhibitors, and colleagues throughout our exhibition halls and at the CCH,” said Bernd Aufderheide, president and CEO of Hamburg Messe und Congress.

There are currently 41 confirmed bookings for the CCH – Congress Center Hamburg, including the world's largest congress on allergy and clinical immunology, the annual congress of the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI), which will take place in June at the CCH in a hybrid format. Approximately 8,000 participants from around the world are expected onsite and online.

James Lancaster
Written By
James Lancaster

AMI editor James Lancaster is a familiar face in the meetings industry and international association community. Since joining AMI in 2010, he has gained a reputation for asking difficult questions and getting lost in convention centres. Proofer, podcaster, and panellist - in his spare time, James likes to walk, read, listen to music, and drink beer.

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