Corrado Peraboni, CEO of IEG
Looking to the future with growth objectives, despite Covid-19? And above all in a sector heavily penalized by the health crisis, such as the trade fair?
It goes clearly against the trend, IEG – Italian Exibhition Group, which despite having undergone the international contingency like everyone else can aim at a horizon of growth. A situation made possible thanks to the solidity of a company that has been a protagonist of the market for years (in 2019 it totaled 48 organized or hosted fairs and 190 congress events), but also by the vision of its CEO, Corrado Peraboni, whose first year in charge coincided with the most serious health and economic crisis of the century and who talks about it in his interview with affaritaliani.it
It cannot be said that luck has helped you, given everything that has happened, but what is the balance of your first year at the helm of IEG?
Well, it must also be said that I was lucky to find a rather flexible company, which fortunately already in 2019, before the pandemic, had begun to alternate events in presence and digitally. Being already used to working agile, the company has not suffered too much in terms of operations. From an economic point of view, of course, the impact was very hard, because we in the exhibition sector were the first to close and we will be the last to reopen. However, the fact of being direct organizers of the events makes IEG a structure with quite flexible costs. We have therefore withstood the shock well, avoiding financial crises. Furthermore, we have tried to use this period of suspension of the fairs to work on the future, that is on the restart and development
What strategies have you adopted?
We have worked on two fronts. On the one hand, we have tried to keep companies in contact with the market: like all organizers in the world, we have resorted to digital. On the other hand, we have planned the future, which must necessarily be on an international scale. In this we need to adopt a somewhat “cross-eyed” perspective: on one side we must return as soon as possible to the previous situation and on the other we must try to grow in absolute terms, focusing on international activity. We did it through web-marketing, the hybridization of those few in-person events that we managed to do between September and October 2020 and the switch to digital for the others. These strategies obviously do not allow us to replace a physical fair, but they have allowed us to maintain strong relationships with companies and the market
And what are the market feedbacks?
A research by AUMA, an association of German trade fair organizations, gives us a fact that makes us optimistic: of the companies that participated in trade fairs before the pandemic, only 13% had an efficiency equal to at least 70% of that previous one. This tells us that today’s situation is very difficult, but also that 87% of these companies will return to exhibiting in presence, as soon as the pavilions can reopen
This confirms that physical presence is essential for your sector. Until this is possible, what kind of support would you need from the institutions?
We hope that the new government will be able to do what the previous one failed to do: obtain from the European Commission the same exemption obtained by Germany in order to be able to give the trade fair organizations non-repayable refreshments on lost turnover. The Italian system has lost 80% of its turnover, but we cannot access these supports fully, as the Germans do. State aid is in fact subject to a “de minimis”: it cannot go beyond 1,800,000 euros in contribution, which for many subjects is more than enough, but not for trade fair organizations that have lost hundreds of millions. The Germans have created a fund of 640 million, obtaining a derogation, as required by European regulations, and therefore will have a very strong injection of liquidity. It is clear that if the same thing does not happen in Italy as well, we will be forced to compete with one hand tied behind our back. With the same starting conditions, our organizers have the strength to get off to a great start. However, the real challenge will be to grow internationally, because the trend of the next 4/5 years for the exhibition sector will be the so-called “continentalization”
What is it about?
The demonstrations will increasingly have a continental and less intercontinental character than before. More exhibitors than visitors will travel. Therefore, to guarantee our companies contact with international buyers, we will need to be able to bring them to them. This is, in my opinion, one of the competitive points for our sector in the coming years. And that is why we have used these months to prepare a stronger platform in order to aim for this kind of expansion. The first of this operation concerns Dubai. We have a very strong event like RiminiWellness and we have also acquired the most important in the Middle East: they will become one, offering our exhibitors the opportunity to be both in Rimini and Dubai. From this budding, a process of international expansion has come to an end, so in 2022 we will have further international events, which we will announce shortly. Not being able to count on the same number of intercontinental visitors as we had before, we will offer companies the opportunity to participate in events on other continents
So we expect big news for 2022, but what is the program for the next months of the current year?
On some foreign markets we have already restarted with events in attendance, while the first physical event in Italy will be Riminiwellness from 1 to 4 July. For the rest we have full digital formats: SigepExp (March 15-17), Expodent (June 17-19) and WeAre (March 23, in the jewelry sector, from Arezzo). I hope that from September it will restart at full speed. On the international market, we have just finished the Dubai Master Classic, which went very well, and in May there will be another edition, in view of the big event in October: the Dubai Master Show, the most important event in the sector in the Middle East.