17 March 2003 CeBIT, the world’s largest technology show, has reported a sharp slump in both visitors and exhibitors for the second successive year, reflecting the current malaise in the global IT economy.
The huge annual fair, which takes place in Hanover, Germany, is the largest trade event of any kind in the world, even dwarfing the big US fair, Comdex Fall, which takes place each November in Las Vegas, Nevada. During the event, it is notoriously difficult to find accommodation within a 100 mile radius of Hanover.
But this year, half way through the eight day event, which began on 12 March and ends on Wednesday 19th, only about 300,000 visitors had attended CeBIT. The organisers had been hoping for a total attendance of around 600,000, compared to 674,000 in 2002, but this may prove optimistic. Usually, more people attend in the first few days of an event than in the last week.
Exhibitors are also down by a tenth and the amount of stand space taken has fallen even further, reflecting reductions in IT marketing budgets and the fact that several thousand IT companies have disappeared. Almost all the exhibitors and most of the visitors are from the IT industry.
Companies such as Check Point Software complain that while conferences such as CeBIT can generate hundreds, perhaps thousands, of sales leads, the quality of those leads is poor. Check Point has abandoned CeBIT this year and is spending the money saved on other forms of marketing, such as magazine advertising.
A ten metre by ten metre stand at CeBIT costs about €18,000, but other costs usually means the total outlay can triple to as much EU54,000 — a large sum for many suppliers. However, many paid for their stand space for several years ahead when the IT industry’s prospects looked brighter, suggesting that bookings may also head down for 2004.