Interview| Exhibition World20| Nov/Dec 2010| The 77th UFI Congress is in Singapore. Wheredoes South East Asia sit in the bigger picture ofinternational exhibitions? I don't think anyone doubts we will continue to see strongeconomic growth in the South East Asian countries. Thereis a fantastic opportunity for that region to continue todevelop strongly in the international exhibition industryover the next few years. There is real potential in Vietnamand Indonesia, and Thailand is definitely ahead of thecurve with its professional development of the exhibitionindustry.The venue of this year's UFI conference is a quiteexceptional location. The Marina Bay Sands, one of themost impressive exhibition hall and congress complexesthat I have ever seen, has been beautifully conceived bythe architect Moshe Safdie. What are your views on emerging technologicaltrends in the international exhibition industry? Is social networking of any real benefit and areexhibitors crying out for RFID? I think we are all still struggling a little to understand thebenefits and consequences of social media. Peoplemade similar claims about email and internet and ofcourse both of these - one could argue - also keepexhibitions alive. Social media does help to reinforce thefeeling of community around an event. And it can alsosuccessfully bridge the time between events bymaintaining interest in the exhibition and in its theme. Butsocial media is no substitute for face-to-face contact, anymore than the telephone or email, and social media mustbe controlled or it can become an unproductive drain onpeople's time.To be honest, RFID scares the pants off me! I think thereare some real privacy issues involved and I don't like theidea of humans being tracked in the same way you wouldtrack a manufacturing component. On the other hand it willmake an impact on the exhibition industry as elsewhere.Some say it will enhance the visitor's experience but I haveyet to be convinced and the privacy issues must beaddressed.There's no doubt that technology has become an integralpart of today's communications process. The exhibitionindustry will use it, build upon it, depend upon it, and helpto encourage its good use as best we can. Quite excitingtimes, don't you agree?Should there be another global financial crisistomorrow, what would you advise is the best wayto protect your business? Cloning events abroad orexpanding into other live event formats?It is the same as for every business; You have to createand communicate value. I would not feel compelled todiversify. Rather, I would invest in enhancing myexisting products - which already have a very clearvisitor proposition - with even better content andinnovations that deliver more value for the visitor's time.Plus of course you have to manage costs verycarefully. This is where Easyfairs has a clear competitiveadvantage over some of the larger organisers and halls.So again, if anybody is reading this who isexperiencing difficulties, please get in touch, because wewould be delighted to help out.Has Easyfairs formed any joint ventures or otherpartnerships recently? We have established joint ventures to set up easyFairsoperations in Colombia, Poland and Russia in the pastthree years. We are open to opportunities for furtherpartnerships but we are very keen to preserve ourindependence and the integrity of the Easyfairs brand.Are you now looking to launch an acquisition drive? Our core strategy is to double in size in the countrieswhere we are already doing business within the next fiveyears, and that will be a combination of organic growthand acquisitions. We certainly aim to make further targeted acquisitionsthat fit within our portfolio. This was the case with bothNationwide in the UK and Fairtec, which we recentlyacquired in Belgium. We are currently exploring somevery interesting opportunities in Germany, Spain, theUnited Kingdom and Ireland. THE MAGAZINE FOR THE GLOBAL EXHIBITION COMMUNITY WWW.EXHIBITION-WORLD.NET"The real obstacle to internationalexpansion is protectionism. If theexhibition industry does not take careof protectionism, protectionism willtake care of us."
Exhibition World | Interview21In particular we have been in touch with large venuesthat are having difficulties maintaining smaller shows. Ilike to say that easyFairs is designed like a speedboat,able to react very quickly. We are process rather thanproject-driven so we can run smaller shows more easilyand efficiently. So long as there is a market for a showwe will introduce the content and the cost-effectiveformat that will restore it to profitability. And that is alwaysgood news for the exhibitor and visitor communities.Are there any countries or regions that you wouldparticularly like to enter, or expand Easyfairs'business in, over the next 24 months? Are thereany issues you would like to see addressed in orderfor you to do business there more successfully?The real obstacle to international expansion isprotectionism. If the exhibition industry does not takecare of protectionism, protectionism will take care of us.If we are to survive in the new business climate then wecannot cling to outdated practices that are a dead weighton the natural creativity and dynamism of the best peoplein our industry. In many countries things are not changingfast enough. Protectionism has certainly hampered ourgrowth plans in Latin America where entrenchedinterests are often very resistant to change andentrepreneurialism. It is a shame, because the peoplewho suffer most are locally based businesses.What would you be doing if you weren't executivechairman at Easyfairs?I wear several hats so there is enough to keep me fullyoccupied outside Easyfairs, especially now with the UFIpresidency. For example I am also executive chairman ofArtexis, one of Belgium's largest public exhibitionsorganisers, and owner-manager of four of Belgium's largestexhibition and conference complexes. I am a father of four,which can also be a full-time occupation especially nowthat my children are in their teenage years. But my real passion is for mountaineering. If I could, Iwould spend a lot more time scaling the greatest peaks inEurope and beyond.If you never had to work again, what would you dowith your time?This question is very difficult for me to answer as I intend towork until I draw my last breath. I am very passionateabout the exhibition industry so I expect to spend moretime supporting new projects as an investor or businessangel. I love to have new projects and set myself newgoals.Do you support any football teams?I have many interests and passions in life but professionalfootball is not one of them. However I do turn out forEasyfairs HQ when we play our national managingdirectors - and that is a fixture that always inflamespassions.For an extended version of this interview, including content onEasyfairs' plans for the future, log on to http://www.exhibition-world.net THE MAGAZINE FOR THE GLOBAL EXHIBITION COMMUNITY WWW.EXHIBITION-WORLD.NET| Nov/Dec 2010|1964Born in Uccle, Brussels1988Founded the European Student Fair1991 - 1995Managing director Reed ExhibitionsBenelux (Reed-Elsevier Group)1995 - 1996Director Reed Midem, Paris (Reed-Elsevier Group)1997 - 2000Partner of direct marketing company KI Partners 1997Founded Artexis, leading organiser oftradefairs and consumer shows inBelgium2001CEO and shareholder of Best of Group SA2002Acquisition and management of theexhibition halls in Antwerp andNamur 2004Invented "the Easyfairs concept" of timeand cost-effective tradeshows2007Acquisition of Flanders Expo200????Elected incoming president of UFIWho is Eric Everard?