Strolling through the halls, testing televisions and the latest gimmicks, collecting autographs: the electronics trade fair IFA was the annual grab bag for technology enthusiasts - until Corona pulled the plug. This year the show is trying to restart. "The IFA is back", advertise the organizers, it starts on Friday.
But like many trade fairs, the IFA does not have an easy time. Nationwide, most of the organizers cannot yet tie in with the old days. Many visitors and exhibitors are holding back. Do they ever come back?
In any case, the trade fair calendar is packed this summer because a lot of things have to be made up for. "September alone will again be challenging for all trade fair trades with almost 50 trade fairs throughout Germany alone, including a number of world-leading trade fairs," according to the Association of the German Trade Fair Industry (AUMA). Since May, the number of exhibitors at trade fairs in Germany has averaged 70 percent of the pre-pandemic level, and visitor numbers have reached around 55 percent.
While Berlin's exhibition center used to burst at the seams for the IFA, this year the organizers were able to cordon off several halls for renovation. The remaining area is 80 percent fully booked, important exhibitors such as Sony are missing - as was the case at the Gamescom games fair in Cologne.
More TV at the World Cup
The industry is betting on the soccer World Cup, which will be played for the first time in winter - and that people will buy more televisions when there are fewer public broadcasts on streets and squares. In addition, some will consider saving expensive energy with new household appliances and networked building technology. In any case, energy efficiency classes are again attracting a lot of attention in the exhibition halls. "Everything A - wonderful," advertises a home appliance supplier.
But even in Berlin, not all the usual manufacturers are back. According to Auma, travel restrictions in Asian countries, which were heavily represented at trade fairs in Germany before Corona, are still slowing down. The association therefore sees the current visitor numbers at most trade fairs as a success.
For the IFA, the organizers do not dare to predict how many people will come. "Many," says trade fair manager David Ruetz. In 2019, 245,000 visitors came over six days. In the Corona summer of 2020, only 750 people were allowed on the site every day - last year the fair was blown off completely. Now it is a day shorter than before Corona. With a good 1100, the number of exhibitors is more than a third below 2019.
"The IFA is on the way back to its full size," says Berlin's trade fair manager Martin Ecknig. How long this path is remains unclear. According to Auma, there are first trade fairs that are above the level before Corona. Overall, however, the members do not see a quick return to the usual trade fair business - especially since stricter infection protection is to be expected again in winter. "An initial survey shows that the majority of organizers do not expect a pre-corona level across the entire industry until 2024 at the earliest."