The creation of (international) specialist fairs

Published on 6/10/2016 by
Holz, Messe Basel (MCH Group)

As early as 1947, the possibility of holding international specialist fairs in Basel was up for debate. At that time, unfortunately, it was still unsuccessful, given that important industry associations rejected the idea of opening up the Swiss Sample Fair.

It took a whole ten years, up until 1957, until Basel staged the first specialist fair of its own, dedicated to the timber-processing sector and today called HOLZ. The early specialist fairs also included Pro Aqua – Pro Vita, a specialist international fair for environmental technology, and Ilmac, a specialist industrial fair for process and laboratory technology.

At that time, there were three different ways in which the specialist fairs came into being. The first possibility was for them to be arranged by external organisers from Switzerland and abroad. Specialised exhibitions of this nature had already been held in Basel during the interwar years, and the trade-fair company had made its halls, logistics and organisation available to them. An example of such an international specialist fair with Basel as its venue was ITMA, the International Textile Machinery Exhibition. The second possibility was for specialist fairs to come into being through particular sectors of industry splitting away from the Sample Fair. That was the case, for instance, with the watch and jewellery show, with Swissbau, the trade fair for the construction sector in Switzerland, and with HOLZ, the international specialist fair for the timber-processing industry. The third possibility was for the fair management to set up new specialist fairs in order to reflect or consolidate new markets. It often happened that these forms of specialist fair arose out of special themes originally within the Sample Fair. It is worth mentioning two early specialist fairs of this third type, namely the environmental fair "Pro Aqua – Pro Vita" and the nuclear exhibition "Nuclex". Although their subject matter was extremely different, both these specialist events were innovative and very successful new creations in Basel.

Schweizer Mustermesse in Basel, 1957 (MCH Group

Messe Basel, 1957

By the way: As early as the beginning of the 1970s, the (international) specialist fairs were making a bigger bottom-line contribution than the Sample Fair. Today, our three locations in Basel, Lausanne and Zurich are home every year to 45 fairs of our own and joint ventures plus more than 50 third-party fairs and exhibitions.

Photos: MCH Group; Staatsarchiv Basel Stadt/Privatarchiv MCH Group

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