Forarch, an architecture fair in Banská Bystrica, attracted 15 percent more exhibitors last year, organizers say.
photo: Sme - Ján Krošlák
ANOTHER year of Slovak exhibitions, ranging from cat shows to fishing, welding, beekeeping and erotica events, has opened amid rising competition for visitors and exhibitors across the country.
One of the largest exhibition centres in the country is Agrokomplex in Nitra, which yearly stages 40 fairs and has a 40 percent share of the exhibition market.
The biggest fairs put on in Nitra are the Autosalón auto show and the Agrokomplex agricultural fair, now in its 34th year, and which during communism was the only exhibition held at the site. Following 1989 the directors of the complex took action to secure other fairs and safeguard the jobs of their 400 employees.
"We had to start thinking of new exhibitions for Slovak companies, because until then they had been oriented towards the Russian market, which was not demanding in terms of quality. Suddenly, after 1989, they faced competition," said Ladislav Švihel, the director of the Agrokomplex site.
Nitra began by adding a machinery exhibition and then a furniture fair, as following the division of Czechoslovakia in 1993, both formerly federal fairs wound up in Brno in the Czech Republic.
"We saw that our people were going to Brno to buy furniture even though our country had large reserves of wood," said Švihel. "We wanted to help small and medium-sized Slovak businesses build up their sales at home, although since then we have become competition for the Czechs."
These days, Švihel said, his firm invests Sk30-50 million a year in upgrading fair facilities and thinking up new exhibits, such as work done by students of trade schools, in cooperation with the auto industry, in an effort to support the declining trade school sector and eventually produce more skilled workers in the country.
But Švihel said that the real secret of Agrokomplex's success was that they had agreed with the Brno exhibition grounds not to hold fairs at the same time, so as to avoid dividing a relatively small customer market. "We don't want to compete, we want to offer services to customers," he said.
The Výstavisko Trenčín exhibition hall is the third largest in the country in terms of area, number of exhibitors and annual turnover.
Like Nitra, it too began under communism 40 years ago with one fair, the Trenčín Mesto Módy (City of Fashion) exhibit, but has since grown to host 20 exhibitions annually. In the last 2.5 years it has added six new fairs, and Výstavisko Trenčín marketing director Pavol Hozlár said the firm's focus on 2007 would be on making the new additions more attractive.
"We want to develop these new exhibits, such as the horse show, the wine fair, and the golf exhibition, as well as increase the quality of the side attractions," he said.
The centre's largest and most successful annual fair is the Elo Sys event featuring electronics products, now in its 13th year.
The Incheba Expo congress and exhibition centre is the country's largest, and in 2006 attracted over 300,000 visitors to see the wares of over 3,000 exhibitors on 120,000 square metres of rented space.
The facility now intends to build a hotel and more exhibition space, a process that director Alexander Rozin calls "humanizing what we have built".
Incheba is also one of the country's main rock concert sites, and last year hosted Deep Purple, Duran Duran and The Prodigy.
Now with a site in Prague as well, Rozin boasts that Incheba's profit figures "are better than the exhibition centre in Vienna", but complains of increasing competition on the Slovak market.
"There is a very tough fight for every exhibitor as well as every customer," he said, although he waved away questions as to whether Slovakia needed more than one car show or dog show.
"Slovakia needs as many car shows as the customer market can support," he said. "You might as well ask whether we need one or two restaurants."
Incheba plans in 2007 to increase the quality of its technological support, to improve its press centre, to attract 20 foreign music acts by mid-year, and to give foreign nationals free access to all exhibitions.
The BB Expo site is the fourth largest exhibition centre in Slovakia, with over 44,000 visitors in 2006 and 468 exhibitors.
The city's 14-year exhibition tradition grew up around the Finex banking sector fair, and today its largest event is the Forarch architecture display, the second largest construction sector event in the country.
BB Expo director Dušan Kováč said his firm would continue to focus on smaller, specialty fairs, such as bio-waste, where it had already established a niche.
"It is very clear that the exhibition sector in Slovakia began to take off last year because of the improved economic situation," he said. "We saw a 10 percent increase in visitors to Forarch, and a 15 percent rise in exhibitors."
Kováč said he hoped the Slovak exhibition visitors would learn to be more inquisitive, as fairs represented an unparalleled opportunity to gain information, as well as to buy merchandise.
"But it's also exhibitors, who think that just by turning up they will increase their revenues," he said. "They have to be more pro-active and talk with customers, and use all of the opportunities for interaction that fairs offer."
8. Jan 2007 at 0:00 | Jana Beňová