C-Suite Advisory

How this country established itself as a leading international trade show destination

Many of us at one point have had to go to Germany for work. If the business involved an international trade fair, either attending as a visitor or exhibiting, then the chances of it being in Germany are really high.

From being a leader in manufacturing, automotive, engineering – the largest country in the European Union (EU) of 80 million people can also add international trade fairs as another accolade in its know-how. But how did Germany become so good at this?


The modern trade show is a simple concept dating back in history, where people would gather to buy and sell goods, as well as to learn from similar people and understand trends. Despite the massive innovations that have happened in the world, the idea of gathering people and having the face-to-face is still important.

Trade shows are big business. At present, there are consumer fairs, which are open to the public, as well as those that businesspeople are more aware of, which are the trade fairs, which generally are either mainly those for people in the industry or their stakeholders such as journalists.

Trade shows are big business. For example, in the US there are over 10,000 trade shows held every year. And add an international twist – and a trade show can also be an international trade show affair that leaders across the planet will attend.


According to Statista, some of the largest exhibition halls in the world are found in Germany, among them are Cologne and Düsseldorf’s Exhibition Centres. However, Hannover’s Messegelände (first place) and Frankfurt’s Main Exhibition Ground (third place) were in the top three of the largest exhibition halls as of 2016 extending 463,165 square meters and 366,637 square meters, respectively.

Germany relies heavily on trade show visitors, as many come not only from the domestic market but also abroad. In 2016, roughly 10.54 million people went to visit a trade fair, according to the Association of the German Trade Fair Industry (AUMA). Every year in Germany, around 150 international trade fairs and exhibitions take place, not to mention innumerable regional trade fairs for trade visitors and consumers, attended annually by around 50,000 exhibitors and 10 million visitors.

Source: AUMA http://www.auma.de/en/press/seiten/press22-2015.aspx

Looking at turnover of exhibition companies it is clear Germany is also a leader, taking 5 of the top 10 spots.

What makes Germany in the global community known to be a leader and host of international trade shows is that, unlike the US which does have more trade shows, is that Germany hosts more international trade shows. For instance, two-thirds of the leading international trade shows are in Germany.


Which international trade shows are in Germany? Well for those who are working in their various industries there is literally one of every kind. As two-third of the leading international trade shows are held in Germany, many in their respective industries will have at least came across their leading ones by name.

Some of those include, which many will know of in their respective sectors, the following:

  • Dusseldorf Messe hosts high profile trade shows like Medica (the world’s largest event for the medical sector), Drupa (world’s largest printing equipment show) and ProWein (the world’s largest wine trade show)
  • Hannover Messe hosts the famous CeBit, which is the world’s largest computer expo
  • Berlin hosts the world’s largest fruit and vegetable trade show, Fruit Logistica, as well as the Berlin International Green Week
  • Frankfurt hosts the popular Frankfurt Book Fair
  • Cologne hosts the important food show ANUGA, as well as the major video game trade show and conference Gamescom


Although Germany is a leader in the trade show world, there is still heavy competition, such as the United States and other European countries like the United Kingdom, as well as other countries like Spain, France and Italy. For instance, there are some key global trade shows that are not in Germany – Mobile World Congress (Barcelona, Spain), Farnborough Air Show (Farnborough, UK), SIAL (Paris, France), Paris Air Show (Paris, France), and International CES (Las Vegas, USA). In addition, there are increasing footprint and regional superstars that have started taking a share in their own high-profile trade shows. There are cities like Dubai. Dubai, not just in the Middle East but on the global stage has become a hub for trade shows, hosting the important food show Gulfoods and what many in the healthcare industry argue is probably now the second most important trade show in the world (after Medica) in terms of size and relevance – Arab Health.

Saying this, Germany has been an economy reliant on exporting. Last year Germany, unlike many countries such as the USA and the UK, actually had a trade balance of 31.5 billion Euros ($37 billion USD). Many globally know that Germans are great at exporting their high-quality goods both in manufacturing as well as services. With the ladder, trade show know-how is something they have done. Some of Germany’s key and high-profile international trade shows now also have sister trade shows which have a regional focus, in particular in emerging economies. For example, popular shows in their respective industries like Fruit Logistica and Prowein now have their own shows in Asia – with the former there is Asia Fruit Logistica in Hong Kong and a newly launched one called China Fruit Logistica. Also, quite a few of the German exhibition companies, such as Dusseldorf Messe, now have subsidiaries around the world, such as in Asia, to cater to the growing market there for trade shows.

For Germany to continue being a leader in the trade show world, like what it has done as far as its economic development, the country must keep being innovative in the way it delivers trade show and exporting that knowledge for the betterment of the rest of the world, in particular emerging economies. Germans generally have a positive reputation in the business world and in the trade show world, especially for those who have been to a trade show – both in Germany or in the rest of the world – that is clear.

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Richie Santosdiaz
Richie Santosdiaz is a London-based economic development & international trade expert specializing mainly on trade & investment. He is also a university-level adjunct lecturer teaching primarily in the areas of international business and trade. He also founded YoungAmericanExpat.com in 2016.