Predicting revenues like ‘reading tea leaves’, Hamburg Messe CEO

What began as a promising 2020 for Hamburg Messe and Congress ended with losses of EURO58.2m and CEO Bernd Aufderheide doesn’t expect ‘normal conditions’ to return until 2023.

Forecasting sales revenues for 2021, he said, ‘would boil down to reading tea leaves’.

He expects ‘somewhat normal’ conditions to return in 2023.

“But it will be a different kind of normality than what we knew before the coronavirus pandemic: The entire exhibition and congress business is undergoing profound change,” he said.

Namely, a digital transformation which has created a focus on hybrid events, something Aufderheide said Hamburg Messe and Congress was positioning itself to offer.

“Attractive cities such as Hamburg with exhibition halls and a congress centre right in the middle will benefit from this development.”

Hamburg Messe got its first taste of a purely digital event when WindEnergy Hamburg, which had been postponed to December 2020 from earlier in the year, went ahead entirely online.

“Our experience has confirmed our view that digital formats will play a much more important role in supporting physical trade fairs in future but cannot fully replace them,” said Aufderheide.

Despite a new dawn of hybrid events, the longing for in-personal, live events to return is deepening among event professionals, he said.

“The good news from the past fiscal year is: business sectors, exhibitors and visitors are anxiously waiting for physical trade fairs and congresses to resume. People are yearning for face-to-face interaction. We hear it again and again in videoconferences and telephone conversations.”

Later this year, Hamburg Messe will debut the PHOTOPIA Hamburg Festival.

The event will invite photography experts and hobby photographers to, ‘rediscover the city as a backdrop for photos and videos’.

“We have developed a magnificent concept and are very much hoping that the event will be able to take place in 2021,” said Aufderheide.

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