Italy: Internationally established and profitable

Over the next few years, Gruppo BolognaFiere will invest heavily in its home base and engage increasingly in activities abroad. This dedication pays off.

Cosmoprof Worldwide Bologna has achieved an increase in visitors from abroad by 10 percent in 2019. (Photo: BolognaFiere)
Cosmoprof Worldwide Bologna has achieved an increase in visitors from abroad by 10 percent in 2019. (Photo: BolognaFiere)

The results of the past year are decidedly positive - as is confirmed by the relevant figures. “For 2019, our revenues exceeded 184 million euros,” a contented Gianpiero Calzolari takes stock. “This is an increase of 7.5 per cent over 2018,” says the president of BolognaFiere. “And, compared to 2017, it’s even an increase of 47 per cent,” he adds. In the same breath, the president emphasises the importance of business outside Italy. He singles out activities in other European countries, in Russia, Asia and North America. Sales abroad have consolidated the group’s leading position in terms of revenues generated on international markets. Overall, the group with its various companies is highly profitable: “Our earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) for 2019 will be around 32.5 million euros,” concludes Calzolari. The success of large events staged in Italy and abroad as well as “a series of acquisitions” have allegedly contributed to this. 

And the outlook for the current year is also very promising. “The forecasts for 2020 predict that the group's consolidated revenues will exceed the threshold of 200 million euros for the first time,” says Gianpiero Calzolari. And EBITDA is also expected to see noticeable increases. “They will reach approximately 39 million euros.” 2020 will be a year of further consolidation on international markets, in which the trade fair company from the Emilia-Romagna region already plays an important role. In mid-January, the group saw the creation of a new 51:49 joint venture between the subsidiary BolognaFiere China and the Chinese minority shareholder Phenix. The latter is a seasoned trade fair organiser with 18 years of experience. BolognaFiere China with a team of 40 staff has a similar level of experience in the Chinese market, having been founded almost a decade and a half ago. “With the new joint venture agreement we are further expanding our range of activities,” says Gianpiero Calzolari. “Three events will contribute to this, dedicated to organic food, zootechnics and private label products.”

Cosmoprof Asia in Hongkong: Business outside Italy is important. (Photo: Cosmoprof Asia)
Cosmoprof Asia in Hongkong: Business outside Italy is important. (Photo: Cosmoprof Asia)

Two of the planned trade fairs will already make their debut this autumn. In October a fair for animal husbandry will open its gates in Jinan in Shandong Province. And early November will see the premiere of “China International Organic Food” in Xiamen. With these projects, revenues are also set to increase. “We believe it realistic to aim to double revenues generated in the Chinese market over the next five years,” predicts Gianpiero Calzolari. But within this timeframe, the company will not just be looking abroad. On the contrary, at home in Bologna its focus will also be on making its trade fairs more international. This will also benefit the infrastructure: Until 2024, the modernisation of the exhibition centre will be actively pursued. Last year, work started on Pavilion 37, which is slated for completion by July 2020. This will provide an additional 15,000 square metres of space for major trade fairs as of the third quarter. The new pavilion will offer some spectacular features, including a mobile, motorised floor covering. Thanks to the absence of internal pillars and its high ceilings, this large structure can be used for other events beyond trade fairs (

Author: Peter Borstel

This article was published in TFI issue 1/2020

“Very highest standards of innovation”

Gianpiero Calzolari, president of BolognaFiere, on the modernisation and financing of Bologna’s exhibition centre - and the attractiveness of its surroundings.

Gianpiero Calzolari (Photo: BolognaFiere)
Gianpiero Calzolari (Photo: BolognaFiere)

What does the development plan envisage?
As the first intervention, the plan involved the demolition and reconstruction of pavilions 29 and 30. In addition, there is a series of later interventions and renovations that should be completed by 2024.  By that date, 80 per cent of the structure will be either newly constructed or freshly renovated - equipped with the very highest standards of innovation. Our exhibition centre is already one of the leading structures of its kind in Europe and these latest modifications are set to make it even more competitive.  

How much money will be invested in modernising the exhibition centre?
The investments established in the development plan add up to 138 million euros. 

What other arguments are there for choosing Bologna for trade fairs?
Our centre is easy to reach both from Italy and abroad thanks to our international airport, high speed rail link and motorway network. And it is located within a city context of great cultural value that is particularly attractive for tourists – a bonus that makes any stay in Bologna even more enjoyable.


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