【DE】Koelnmesse 2021: a difficult year overall, but positive signals in the autumn trade fairs

President and Chief Executive Officer Gerald Böse anticipates stabilisation in 2022 – turnover of around 250 million euro expected


After a promising re-start in autumn, the 2021 trade fair year in Cologne ended on a conciliatory note. In the months leading up to that, Koelnmesse had to accept significant declines in sales and high losses, as in the previous year. Despite renewed cancellations and postponements at the turn of the year 2021/2022 due to the pandemic, the company’s management is confident about the rest of the year: “Our trade fairs in autumn proved that events on an international level are once again possible and safe for everyone,” emphasises CEO Gerald Böse. “We are continuing to focus on stabilisation, making up for the postponed trade shows this year and getting our business back on track.”


Only 34 of the 68 trade fairs planned worldwide as part of Koelnmesse’s programme took place in 2021. These included 13 of the company’s own events in Cologne, 11 guest events and 10 events in 8 countries abroad. Several of the company’s own events – h+h cologne, insureNXT I CGN, interzum, gamescom and DMEXCO – were held in purely digital form, while others managed to combine the physical live experience in the trade fair halls with new digital services as hybrid events, thus setting the course for future formats. The successfully re-starts on site in the exhibition halls in Cologne in autumn were Kind + Jugend, IDS, Anuga, the trade fair duo FSB and aquanale as well as the art fairs.


2021 turnover at around 130 million euro with losses in the high double-digit million range

The preliminarily turnover in 2021 reached approximately 130 million euro. Thanks to good trade fair results in autumn and the implementation of the vaccination centre along with significant cost-cutting measures, losses remained below 100 million euro. The subsidiary Koelncongress, which is responsible for the guest trade fairs, congress and event business, contributed around 30 million euro in turnover. It organised the Cologne vaccination centre, which administered close to 650,000 vaccinations over the course of almost 300 days.


The company’s economic foundation remains intact. Equity remains sufficient due to the exceptionally high volume of more than 250 million euro at the start of the pandemic, and liquidity is also secured in 2022. Koelnmesse took account of the crisis situation by continuing short-time work until August 2021. At the end of the year, the Koelnmesse Group had 960 employees, around 40 fewer than in the previous year following a targeted recruitment freeze.


Implementation of the plannings for 2022, which are again based on increasing turnover of an expected 250 million euro and significantly lower losses, largely depend on the further development of the pandemic as well as the political requirements and travel regulations. Böse: “It remains our goal to match our pre-pandemic turnover of over 400 million euro. That could be the case again starting in the 2023/2024 season.”


Successful re-start abroad as well

2021 also saw successful re-starts abroad. These included Andina Pack in Colombia, ANUFOOD China and interzum guangzhou in China, and Wine & Gourmet in Japan. Travel restrictions, especially in Asia, remain problematic. In China, international participation is currently only possible through local sales partners or subsidiaries. Premieres abroad last year included ANUFOOD China at the new exhibition centre in Shenzhen and gamescom asia, which was held as a hybrid event in Singapore in October.


Organised and operated by Koelnmesse on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, the German Pavilion at Expo 2020 in Dubai is enjoying great popularity at the venue and throughout the media landscape. As CAMPUS GERMANY, the German contribution is presenting ideas and innovations from Germany related to the topic of sustainability until the end of March 2022.


Numerous premieres in 2022

Koelnmesse is planning a total of 64 events for 2022 including 21 own and 22 guest trade fairs in Cologne as well as 21 abroad. Two premieres are taking place in Cologne. In September, the food industry will meet for the first time at the new innovation platform Anuga HORIZON. The polisMOBILITY in May, which also includes the surrounding urban environment of Cologne, is dedicated to the future of mobility within the context of city life.


New additions to the trade fair portfolio abroad include ISM Japan and ORGATEC TOKYO, both of which will be launched in Tokyo in April, as well as a new platform for the North American handicrafts sector, h+h americas in Chicago in June.


Continuing to invest in the future

Despite economic losses, Koelnmesse will adhere to key elements of its extensive Koelnmesse 3.0 investment programme. This particularly includes Confex® congress and event location, which is urgently needed at the Cologne site and is scheduled for completion in 2024. Planning for the East/West Boulevard will also start on schedule in 2022, while other construction measures will be postponed, including parts of the hall renovation as well as open space and facade design. This will serve to increase financial latitude by a double-digit million amount in 2022.


“We are keeping the reins in our hands.”

Böse: “This will help us keep the reins in our hands. It is our task to prepare ourselves in the best possible way for the continuation of our global trade fair business in the interests of our customers and of Cologne as a trade fair and congress venue, even in uncertain times. The pandemic has posed major challenges for the global trade fair industry. Existing developments such as sustainability, digitalisation or continentalisation have been accelerated and require strategic action. This continues to include maintenance and expansion of our event portfolio, consistent customer orientation, continued development of digital product offerings and hybrid events, and intensification of our internationalisation efforts.”


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