Switzerland: The domestic market is not enough

Strengthening international exhibition activities and new offers in the digital area are on the agenda of Swiss market leader MCH. Plus new building plans.

Construction test plans for the car park site at Basel Exhibition Centre: computer rendering by architects Herzog & de Meuron. (Photo: Herzog & de Meuron)
Construction test plans for the car park site at Basel Exhibition Centre: computer rendering by architects Herzog & de Meuron. (Photo: Herzog & de Meuron)

2013 proved to be extraordinary for the MCH Group in many ways. The year’s milestones were the completion of the new building for Messe Basel, the new Baselworld concept and the first Art Basel in Hong Kong. In 2014 MCH returned more or less to everyday business, but without the return to routine hurting the balance sheet. On the contrary: “We had very successful half-year results this year too with a record profit amount” sums up Christian Jecker. “Overall, we expect for 2014 results that will be in line with last year,” announced the Head of Corporate Communications at MCH Group. “Given the various factors that must be considered in the multi-year comparisons, this is again a good result.”   

2015 will be for the MCH Group a weaker year due to scheduling. The reason is that the biennial Swissbau does not take place in odd years. At the same time, however, expenses are incurred; the Group will have to bear the financial burden of the new buildings at Messe Basel. “Expectations cannot therefore be at the level of years that are cyclically strong,” emphasises Christian Jecker. For this reason, there is a focus on time windows with similar exhibition calendars. “We want 2015 to surpass cyclically comparable previous years.” Executives at MCH see future growth potential primarily in the development of the exhibition and service portfolio. “Here the focus is on strengthening internationalisation and more and new offerings in the digital area.”

 
 
 
 
Great response: Clocks are already ticking until the next Baselworld from 19 to 26 March 2015. (Photo: Baselworld)
Great response: Clocks are already ticking until the next Baselworld from 19 to 26 March 2015. (Photo: Baselworld)

This future strategy is not least due to the situation on the domestic market. Aside from internationally oriented and established fairs such as Baselworld, Art Basel, or the Geneva Motor Show, Switzerland as an exhibition venue is facing major challenges. “Particularly in the area of trade fairs,” states Christian Jecker, “since the domestic-oriented exhibition market is largely saturated.” He regards the potential for growth at numerous trade shows as limited, as he observers that the Swiss market is increasingly losing importance – both for internationally-oriented Swiss companies and as a sales market for foreign companies.   

Despite such saturation tendencies and the resulting gaze across borders, MCH is still working on the home exhibition infrastructure. In Basel there are plans to create an underground parking garage and to develop the previous car park areas. “We have carried out a so-called test planning,” reports Christian Jecker. “It was meant to demonstrate the development potential of the parking garage area – as well as the possible benefits of more intensive development of this area for the city and the exhibition centre.” The results are now available: If the existing parking spaces are relocated to basement floors, there will be space for a new building. Public uses, hotel operations, offices, and residential spaces are likely to bring a further boost and enhance the exhibition centre and the surrounding area. “This will benefit Messe Basel and our customers,” says Jecker. “Especially with an additional hotel next to the fairground.”

Swissbau: For the MCH Group 2014 has been a cyclically strong year. (Photo: MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG)
Swissbau: For the MCH Group 2014 has been a cyclically strong year. (Photo: MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG)

Thus the idea of ​​such a new building is on the table and the public debate has been opened. The decision whether the MCH Group will continue to pursue the idea now lies with the political authorities. They must decide on an adaptation of the development plan. Before then not much will happen in terms of implementation. “Only when an appropriate development plan becomes legally binding, can a real project development be tackled,” says Christian Jecker, describing the necessary procedure. Until then, quite some time could pass: “We expect that this may be the case in 2017,” predicts the Head of Corporate Communications (www.mch-group.com).

 
 

Author: Peter Borstel

This article was published in TFI issue 6/2014

 
 

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