Exhibition Showcase talks to Sergey Alexeev, President – RUEF

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ES – Please tell us about RUEF. What is the role of RUEF in the Russian exhibition industry? What has RUEF managed to achieve in the development of the Russian exhibition industry since its inception?
Sergey – The past years for the Russian exhibition industry have been the years of becoming as a branch of the national economy. Today, it is difficult to imagine attracting investments in certain sectors of the economy and regions, technological renovation of the industry, the implementation of innovative projects without the exhibition industry. The Union was born as a family of professionals, which included only a few organizations. Today we unite the leading exhibition companies from all federal districts of Russia, we represent the united exhibition community of Russia, we are known and not only Russian but foreign business communities and authorities are listening to us. Today RUEF is an established, authoritative industry association that has significant impact on the definition of the strategy and priorities of the development of the exhibition industry in Russia. For 25 years of its existence, the Union has made a significant contribution to the development of the domestic exhibition business. Nevertheless, we are aware that there is a lot of work ahead in the development of regulatory regulation of the industry, assistance in the development of infrastructure, state support for exhibition activities, stimulating enterprises to participate in exhibitions, and a number of other areas.

ES – How is the exhibition industry developing in Russia? Please share with us some statistics about the Russian exhibition industry.
Sergey – The analysis we conducted repeatedly confirmed that exhibitions are the mirror of the economy. In connection with the instability of the Russian economy, a characteristic feature of the development of the exhibition industry in Russia in recent years has been a decrease in the statistical indicators of exhibition activities. However, following the results of 2017, the increase of rented exhibition space (+ 4.4%), net exhibition space (+ 2.5%) were noted; together with the growth of the number of foreign exhibitors (+ 3.3%) and with a slight decrease in domestic (-2.2%). For us, this is a good result, because now we have confirmation of the beginning of the restoration of the Russian exhibition industry.

ES – How do you assess the relevance of exhibitions at the moment? How can they become more relevant?
Sergey – Exhibitions are still relevant, although we have to work in new conditions, adapt to them. The main influence on the exhibition industry is provided by the processes of globalization and digitalization. They carry with them both opportunities and problems. Thanks to globalization, our industry interacts with new dynamically developing markets. Due to digitalization, the exhibition industry has competitors: online platforms that, like trade shows, bring together buyers and sellers. Those companies that can deliver new technologies to their service will be more successful by building more effective interaction between exhibitors and visitors. Another challenge facing us is the selection of personnel. For the next few years, we set the task to intensify the work on attracting talented personnel to the industry.

ES – What are the main challenges facing the Russian exhibition industry today?
Sergey – In addition to global trends, the Russian exhibition industry is also affected by economic and geopolitical instability. Oddly enough, despite the backdrop of a difficult situation, we also received the new opportunities, since in the current international situation the importance of mutual trust and cooperation multiplied. A key role in this work belongs to the exhibition business, which, like no other, connects countries and continents, unites partners from all over the world. In Russia, this role is carried out by RUEF as an industry association. I had the opportunity to represent our country as President of UFI during a year. It was not an easy task to be the first Russian in this position. I think this was useful for the Russian exhibition industry, and also allowed us to make sure that at the level of the business community our foreign partners are still focused on cooperation development.

ES – What are the positive aspects in your region?
Sergey – In recent years, we have been able to achieve a lot in the development of the infrastructure of the exhibition industry, modern exhibition complexes that allow holding events of international level are opened not only in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but also in the regions. The level of transparency of the Russian exhibition market is growing, the coverage of exhibitions by the audit is expanding, and, therefore, the statistical performance of RUEF members becomes more and more reliable. An important trend was the growing interest of the Russian federal and regional authorities to the development of exhibition activities. The interaction of the exhibitors with industry associations of entrepreneurs is constantly expanding, which has a significant impact on raising the efficiency of exhibitions.

ES – What new trends will influence the development of the exhibition industry?
Sergey – Digitalization, new generation, globalization and localization.

ES – What is the expected 2018 for the Russian industry?
Sergey – Annually at the beginning of the year we conduct a survey among RUEF members about their plans for the current year. This year we received the following results. Despite the difficult situation in the economy, about 60% of Russian exhibition companies expect profit growth in 2018. The majority of organizers will continue to increase the attractiveness of exhibitions in 2018 by increasing the business and related program – 81% of exhibitors will strengthen the “congress” component of their activities. In terms of operating expenses, the organizations are mostly “frozen” at the levels of the past.
In price policy, there is a tendency to increase prices (about 70% of exhibition companies have stated this). Also popular is the measure of sales promotion, like the supply of discounts.

ES – What kind of support does the state of the exhibition industry in your region provide?
Sergey – There are three main types of support that the state provides to exhibition activities in Russia: financial, organizational and information. Support is provided both at the federal and regional levels (each has its own peculiarities). Organizers of events receive, mainly, organizational and information support in the preparation and conduct of events. Financial support is provided to companies participating in exhibitions as part of programs that promote Russian goods to foreign markets.

ES – How do you see cooperation between Russia and India? Which exhibitions, in your opinion, need to be developed?
Sergey – As for the exhibition activities, in 2017 India took the second place in the activity of participation in Russian exhibitions among Asian countries. The number of exhibitors from India has been decreasing since 2014, but in 2017 there has been a significant increase. In 2017, 430 exhibitors from India took part in Russian exhibitions (+34.4%). This happened despite the backdrop of growth in trade between Russia and India (+19% in 2017). Subjects of exhibitions in which representatives of India take the most active part at the moment: Textiles, clothing, footwear; Tourism, sports, recreation; Food industry; Culture, art, antiques; Fair of technical goods. We consider it necessary to increase cooperation in the exhibition sphere in key areas of cooperation between the countries: energy, metallurgy, chemical industry, engineering, agriculture, and advanced branches of science and technology. When choosing the events for participation, first of all, it is necessary to trust those exhibitions that have been audited, approved by UFI, are marked with RUEF sign and are included in the All-Russian exhibition rating. RUEF can provide you with useful materials for the selection of exhibitions and partners for the development of cooperation, you can also find them on the RUEF website www.ruef.ru.

ES – What is the state of the industries / economy in your region? Do companies and businesses believe in the power of exhibitions in your region and fully participate in them?
Sergey – Indeed, at present there is some instability in the Russian economy. However, the World Bank raised its forecast for the growth of the Russian economy in 2018 to 1.7% from 1.4%. According to experts, the Russian economy benefits not only from rising oil prices, but also the current situation in the world economy, accompanied by increased trade and investment, has a positive impact on it. This is reflected on the exhibitions. Unfortunately, not all Russian companies believe in the significance and effectiveness of exhibitions, participate in them. In addition, in recent years, due to the limited marketing budgets, a number of companies have been forced to refuse to participate in exhibitions. Therefore, we constantly work on explaining the practical value of exhibitions for commercial enterprises and the economic effect of exhibitions on business development, translating ideas about the commercial effectiveness of exhibitions, which are an effective tool for anti-crisis development or business expansion.

ES – People working in the exhibition industry are very busy and travel a lot. How do you manage to keep a balance between work and your personal life?
Sergey – We, in our profession, have the great privilege to see many countries not only as tourists, but also as local business people. I’ve already been 32 years in exhibition business, visited many countries. I’ve been to your magnificent country several times, I’ve got a friend of mine Ravinder Sethi here. So I feel in the global exhibition industry like as in family. There is happiness. And I am happy that my wife and my son quite often join me.

ES – Please, tell us about the key events in the activities of RUEF.
Sergey – The main events of 2018 for us will be the events of the Global Exhibitions Day in Russia (June 6, 2018) and the 85th Congress of the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry – UFI in St. Petersburg (October 31 – November 3, 2018, Expo Forum Exhibition Center). We are actively getting ready for these events and we expect that they will contribute to the development of international relations of the Russian Federation not only in the sphere of exhibition activities, but also in other areas of the economy, and to promote the spread of positive information about our country.

ES – What are your immediate plans?
Sergey – I’ll be happy to take part in the 8th Annual Conclave of the Indian Exhibition Industry Association – IEIA OPEN SEMINAR 2018 which will be held from May 09 to 11, 2018 at HITEX, Hyderabad, INDIA and see our colleagues and friends.

ES – Any other comments?
Sergey – I would like to wish your country prosperity, happiness and piece, and remind slogan that I keep in my mind since my childhood: Russian and Indians are brothers.

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