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Embrace the Profit

Something very pragmatic. If you are attending a trade show like drupa, you have to find accommodation, and with Düsseldorf being one of Germany's major exhibition cities, this should be easy, right? As with most products in the world, pricing depends on supply and demand. So for hotels during drupa, this isn't easy, and the prices are way beyond reasonable. And that follows a systemic approach in Düsseldorf.

By Andreas Weber & Morten B. Reitoft

drupa is one of the major exhibitions in Düsseldorf – at least the #1 –, and the supply of hotel-rooms is simply so much lower than demand that prices skyrockets during drupa. Hotels and Air'n'b's strive during drupa with prices increasing 200-500%. Skyrocketing prices apply to almost every city when trade shows occur, but with drupa, there is limited competition. More about that later. Messecenter Düsseldorf manages drupa exclusively, and Messecenter Düsseldorf is owned by the municipality of Düsseldorf and the German state of North-Rhine Westphalia - it's essentially a governmental or public owned company.

Being a publicly owned company CAN mean that there are more interests than what meets the eye. Why should a municipality allow more competition among hotels? Why should a city have any interest in free and open competition for anything related to Messecenter Düsseldorf? As long as people are willing to pay what it cost, the system works…

The drupa-website even offers a 'search and booking' for accommodation. Do you think this comes for free? We are confident that drupa doesn't do anything for free. Even if the commission is similar to what other accommodation brokers are offering, this underscores how Messecenter Düsseldorf conducts its business like an octopus. Everything looks legit on the surface, but competition is effectively set out of order, not legal. So to say: Embrace the profit!

When an exhibitor signs up for a booth at drupa, they are obligated to pay a marketing fee of a minimum of €550. According to drupa, the money covers the cost of being accepted in the drupa catalog and their website. With more than 1.500 exhibitors, the marketing fee attributes a total of a minimum of €825.000 - or what most would consider to more than enough for the value it represents. As you already know, drupa charges an entrance fee, but drupa also charges for many other things. One of the things that surprised us was the charge for media setting up their publications for free to the visitors. drupa charges for everything, and one exhibitor told us that drupa and Messecenter Düsseldorf has the 'world record' for invoicing the most. 

If you have a booth and you want to celebrate practically anything - and though you have already paid a premium for the booth, drupa will not allow this without additional payment.

Everything - literally EVERYTHING comes at drupa with a steep price tag, and this is, of course, known by everybody, so that isn't a surprise. What is a surprise, however, is that exhibitors accept. With drupa being globally the largest exhibition in the printing industry, Messecenter Düsseldorf and drupa have got into a position where morals and ethics have been set out of control. Everything is well-driven. As long as the number of visitors appears to be acceptable for visitors, drupa can continue to deliver a service that essentially consists of offering space in some concrete walls in a city where prices are way higher than acceptable. As the exhibition center owns drupa, free competition wouldn't allow the show to move to other cities to strive from the competition. 

Events such as PRINTING United and FESPA benefit from not being tied into fixed places. As long as organizers like Messecenter Düsseldorf can convince attendees and exhibitors to go to Düsseldorf - as long will this biz model works.

The COVID-19 pandemic came at a bad time. Things were really going well. Some of the exhibitors told us how difficult drupa is dealing with. An exhibitor wanted to move his booth closer to a business partner - it only became an option after he threatened to cancel his drupa participation. 

Other exhibitors even said that it was impossible to reach drupa in the days after the postponement was announced. It's also a fact that drupa doesn't offer you to apply for a booth in a specific hall. You apply, and then you can be courtly appointed space - take it or leave it.
But back to hotels and accommodation, because this is a major cost factor for all exhibitors and visitors. I believe we can all agree that the pandemic is not anybody's fault, right? To get a hotel, many of the exhibitors we have been speaking to tells us that hotels have to be booked (and paid) years in advance. Some vendors say they have been using the same hotels for years. They, therefore, don't experience what we are writing below - however: 

Several exhibitors confirm that changing hotel reservations - although it was Messecenter Düsseldorf that made the postponement of drupa - cost exhibitors an additional upfront payment of 10%.

Some exhibitors even explain that pre-ordered - and paid for - restaurants completely reject repayments - some don't even accept changes to reservations from back 2020. 

As long as an exhibition as drupa has a positive ROI or a great marketing value (we will discuss this in our next stories), you may have to accept these behaviors. Still, the entire ecosystem is beyond reasonable, and what strikes us - why should you accept this craziness if you reach your sales budgets fine without drupa?

The world is changing, and with dishonest morality from not only drupa but also hotels and restaurants - and let's assume even more people, services, etc. - all have learned to accept the explained ecosystem. Not benefitting exhibitors and visitors, but only the people now showing their really ugly side of themselves. But to be clear: the 'normal' population in Düsseldorf is different and mostly helpful and very friendly to trade fair guests.

The existence of drupa is literally in a thin thread. We don't think the people at drupa realize this. We believe they consider themselves as part of the industry and that drupa is an essential service. We are sure that it once was so, maybe only a decade ago, but if drupa and most other organizers don't change their offering/service/attitude, if they don’t like and love their customers as main stakeholders they will have no place in the future.