Finnish MD on importance of trade fair summit

Anni Vepsäläinen in Rome for the UFI Global CEO Summit. Photo Credit: Gianfranco Nitti

ROME – The UFI Global CEO Summit, an event bringing to together around a hundred CEOs and presidents who organize the most important trade fairs in the world, ended in the Eternal City on Friday. 

 Thanks to the summit, these 100 leaders of the exhibition sector were able to see for themselves how Rome, its territory and the country can be an ideal destination for the event market. 

 During this meeting, the participants analysed the best strategies and opportunities in the sector, assessed trends and defined long-term objectives. 

 Held behind closed doors at the Hotel Palazzo Naiadi, the summit participants were received by the Pope in a private audience. 

 "International fairs contribute to the growth of a culture of the meeting: which strengthens the bonds of solidarity and promotes mutual enrichment among the members of our human family," said Pope Francis before delegates.

 UFI, the global association of exhibition industry, alone represents more than 800 organizations and has members from over 86 countries. About 1,000 international fairs carry the "UFI approved event" brand, synonymous with guarantee and quality for visitors and exhibitors.

 Finland was also represented at the meeting, in the person of Mrs. Anni Vepsäläinen, and she kindly welcomed our invitation to quickly review the characteristics of the company of which she has been general manager since 2014, namely Messukeskus, the main Finnish trade fair body, which last year celebrated 100 years since its foundation.

Q - What is the reason for your presence at this UFI?

A - We have a Finnish association of trade fair bodies to which we belong and participation in UFI is an important opportunity for information exchanges, for benchmarking. That is, improving your business activities in relation to others, and checking how customers evaluate the sector fair and congress. It is also important for the exchange of data and statistics, and knowledge of the possibility of further development of new specific methods and cases, such as, for example, the way in which Las Vegas is promoting itself as a destination. It is also important for me to be in this event in Italy, because I love Italy where I have been various times.

Q - Do you have bilateral collaborations with other exhibition companies?

A - Indeed in the trade fair sector we always activate collaborations since we work as in a network; for example, in Finland we represent Düsseldorf Messe and market its events.

Q - In your opinion, what is the most relevant of the events taking place in your structure?

A - We pay attention to the turnover and employment that events produce in the various business sectors, such as hotel, transport, catering, etc. The economic effect produced by us, 2018 data, has been assessed in approximately € 282 million which is significant as an economic liability. As regards a major fair, the Nautical Fair is now under way in Helsinki, which lasts 10 days (from 7 to 16 Feb.) and in terms of turnover is the main one. If I can mention the Book Fair, the latest edition has met with great success and produced, with the one on wines, over 92,000 visitors. For the leisure and tourism industry, the Matka Fair recently closed, registering some 68,000 visitors.

Q: What has been the main theme of your company's centenary?

A - The Finnish Fair Corporation, the Finnish Fair Company, was established on 19 October 1919 and the first fair was held in the summer of 1920 in the centre of Helsinki, attracting 120,000 visitors, more than the inhabitants of the city at the time. We celebrated the centenary with a year-long exhibition dedicated to our customers with successful examples, such as the opening of the largest Muji store in Europe, in the Kampi shopping centre, following the presence of the Japanese company in the Habitare fair in 2017. Another successful example is the Nordic Business Forum, a catalyst for economic initiatives among the participants.

Q - How do you evaluate your economic and financial prospects?

A - Our economic results show a good trend; we have not yet published the 2019 report, but I can anticipate that the turnover has been around 59 million € and last year we made an important investment in the total renovation of the hotel adjacent to the Fair Centre.

Q - Could the slowdown in flows of Chinese operators due to the known epidemic have any effect on your sector?

A - I do not believe that we will have significant direct effects on our activities, but only indirect ones, although now difficult to quantify. The exhibition sector in Finland is a lively and promising industry, also for the exhibition events hosted in the cities of Turku and Tampere.

During the chat, Mrs. Vepsäläinen gives us some interesting data: on average, the Messukeskus hosts 65 trade fairs and 1,500 conferences and congresses per year involving 9,000 customers. Attracting 1,200,000 visitors and 10,000 journalists the fairs provide work for 200 permanent employees and make a net profit (2018) of 1.2 million euro.



The Matka Travel Fair, which took place in January Photo credit: Messukeskus
Anni Vepsäläinen at the opening of the Matka Travel Fair. Photo Credit: Messukeskus