In the past five years, the French owner of the Hungexpo fair and exhibition site has spent EUR 50 million, including the purchase price, to develop the area of 36 hectares that now has 70,000 sq meters of covered exhibition area in Budapest.
When in 2005 the French company GL Events bought Hungexpo, Hungary’s largest exhibition organizer firm, the latter already had a nice exhibition portfolio of its own. Since then, the new owner has spent EUR 50 million, including the purchase price, to develop the area of 36 hectares that now has 70,000 sq meters of covered exhibition area in Budapest’s 10th district, Kobanya. It is not just a fair site, it can provide venue for other events, even conferences with 10,000 participants. This is unique in Hungary and quite rare in the region, as well, to host a congress for thousands of people, gala dinner for 3-4,000 guests.
GL events, an event services company with offices throughout Europe, USA, the Middle East, China and Brazil is an institutional investor that has very clear ideas of what a good exhibition or fair is about, how it conforms to the latest trends. Hungexpo, as member of the group can also utilize the plenty of experience, innovation and international contacts
the parent company has. As Hungexpo CEO Gabor Ganczer points out, “GL Events was able to add to Hungexpo’s traditional portfolio exhibitions that are successful in France. Also, by constructing this multifunction hall, Central Europe’s biggest hall without internal pillars (10,000 sq meters with a height of 13 meters), it created the possibility of hosting not just exhibitions but any kind of corporate events, large-scale conferences that includes an exhibition and congress and possibly mobile section rooms. It is also provided with all sorts of technical equipment for individual arrangement and furnishing.” A covered passage was also built between the most important pavilions.
Hungexpo’s activities rest on three big pillars. “We have traditional exhibitions of our own, this is still our core business. The international exhibition market has considerably changed since the 1960s-80s when the fairs were rather markets of consumer goods that were scarcely available in the Hungarian stores in those times of the shortage economy. Now, it is a different world with shopping centers springing up all over the country. Consumer habits have changed and Hungexpo opened towards new areas of business,” the CEO explains. That is where the second pillar lies, the provision of venues for congresses and other corporate events, from Christmas parties to conferences catering to thousands of participants.
The third, the latest direction is to provide community site and program venue for the younger generation. For instance, a covered ice rink opens in November and there is already great interest in it. “We intend to build culture and sports programs around the exhibitions to better serve our visitors, especially the families. Another example for that is a golf hall of 1,000 sq meters also opening this November,” he says.
Hungexpo that attracts half a million exhibitors and visitors a year, 10% from abroad and one third from outside Budapest, endeavors to bring together exhibitions and fairs attracting visitors of similar interest. The most recent example is Hoventa presenting hotel industry and gastro technology that was held simultaneously with the Business Travel Show and the Event Expo. Another effort is bringing in new exhibitions. This year, the Budapest International Fair was accompanied by the new Kids’ Expo for kids and their families – one fine example of ideas from GL Events that already organized this event in France with success.
Short-term goals by the management – to be carried out in conjunction with Budapest and the 10th district – is to improve public transport accessibility to the fair site. There is also plan to convert one of the pavilions into a congress site with section rooms of modular, soundproof walls. Gabor Ganczer says that “basically, the development of the Hungexpo site is complete, now the emphasis is on the management of the facilities that will return the investment.”
As for the outlook, the CEO believes the exhibition market is very sensitive. “Our business-to-business events are mirror images of the different market segments. Should agriculture suffer a major downturn this year, that would definitely be felt at next year’s Agromashexpo. The same applies to the Construma exhibition. The construction industry was severely hit in 2009 and that made our job to organize this year’s expo much more difficult than in 2007 or 2008 when this industry was booming. In the past year, the sale of motorcycles was basically decimated, so, this year, there is no motor show, all I could organize was a motorcycle festival.”
He adds that in the field of consumer-oriented programs, it is somewhat easier to compensate – with lots of programs, big attractions – for the effect of the world economic crisis.” However, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. As the world is slowly leaving the crisis behind, new technologies and new directions are introduced that need and – at the same time – help the exhibition market. The French owner’s international experience also comes handy here.