Are exhibitions still important to your business?

It’s been a long time since many of us attended a show or exhibition in our industry. In varying degrees, the COVID-19 pandemic has rendered such mass gatherings of people at indoor locations somewhere on a scale between difficult and impossible. But as vaccines are rolled out and as we learn more about how to control the disease, exhibitions and shows are planning their triumphant returns around the world. But are all their exhibitors just as enthusiastic?

That’s the question that must be asked when one of the leisure vehicle industry’s biggest companies, the Erwin Hymer Group (EHG), recently announced a new trade show strategy that will see it focus more on digital events, alongside live ones. The German giant, which owns brands including Hymer, Dethleffs, Eriba, Laika and Niesmann +Bischoff, said it aims to attend shows (including Caravan Salon Düsseldorf and CMT Stuttgart) every two years from now on. 

Martin Brandt, CEO of EHG said: “Over the past 12 months, we have experienced very positive outcomes from strategically orienting our sales and marketing initiatives towards digital formats. Our focus in this process is very much on the inclusion of our dealerships and retail partners. We have successfully used digital channels to attract thousands of new customers and, together with our local retail partners, engaged their enthusiasm for our new products and offerings.”

He added that appearances at trade fairs will still play a major role in the company’s sales and marketing strategy and that: “Our aim of participating in the key shows every two years means we will maintain our contact with those customers for whom a visit to a trade fair is an indispensable factor in their purchasing decision.”

It’s a bold move from a major player in the camping industry, but one that does not necessarily set the trend for everyone. 

The Camping & Picnic Fair, which recently took place in South Korea.

Many other companies out there cannot wait to get back to interacting with their customers, whether B2B or consumers in a face-to-face way. You only have to look at the take-up of events that were able to take place in the last year, such as last year’s Caravan Salon Düsseldorf, the Camping & Picnic Fair in South Korea or the Florida RV show, to see that the appetite is there. In the UK, a band of tent and camping brands have even worked together to organise a brand-new outdoor exhibition in light of the major indoor ones being cancelled there. Enthusiasm for shows is still abundant and that is something event organisers agree on too, though they are aware they have an uphill battle to get things back to the way they were before. In our recent podcast, Alexander Ege of the CMT Stuttgart show explained: “A lot of digital elements will be incorporated into our next edition of CMT. All the elements of our successful digital event will be help our exhibitors and visitors alike. We expect that not everything will be back at 100 per cent straight away, not from the exhibitors, not from the visitors and not from the regulations. Not everyone will come back at the first show. But what we do know is that nearly everyone we deal with wants to have that face-to-face conversation back as soon as possible. 

“It’s important to let everyone know that on-site events will take place in the future. They will come back as soon as they are able to, and of course it will be hard work for event organisers to bring back all the exhibitors, but on the other side we will be combining digital and real-life elements to make shows event more relevant in the future.”

So, while this move from EHG isn’t the first decision of its kind and won’t be the last, events are not going away. The real question is, will they still be playing a key part in your business planning and decisions? We’d like to think so.


Main photo: Messe Düsseldorf, Constanze Tillmann