The president of UFI, Corrado Peraboni, began his career as a representative of Italian foreign ministry in the former Fiera Milano public body in 1996, while working as a consultant in Latin America. After successfully guiding a co-operation agreement between Fiera Milano and the main exhibition centre in Havana, he began working on a regular basis with the group in the year 2000.
In the 18 years that have passed, in which he has been involved with many sectors, from fashion to machinery, to the catering industry, leading to his current tenure as UFI president he has made many observations about the way our industry is adapting and expanding.
“There has always been consolidation in our industry, there is even more of it today. Events such as the recent IEIA open seminar in India show that we still have space for start-ups of family companies,” he says.
“Ours is becoming an industry where multinational companies and small businesses are able to thrive together.”
And they are doing so in more and more parts of the world and sectors of industry now officially represented by UFI. Two new UFI events take place this year, a human resources event that preceded the Asia Seminar in Malaysia, and the first Latin American regional conference. But are there plans for more?
“In addition to these two events the next efforts for UFI will be dedicated to the implementation of the existing ones. New tools for Global Exhibitions Day, an increased digital element in our Barometer survey, double the VMS education we recently launched in Mandarin in China, and so on,” he says. “The staff guided by Kai and Sonia are doing a great job in integrating the new Latin American offices in UFI activities.”
Representing an industry on a truly global scale is not a simple task due to the regional nature of the industry. Since its foundation in 1925 UFI has grown into the role of global association with four regional offices in addition to its headquarters in Paris, serving a membership in almost 90 countries and regions around the world.
“We are currently seeing fast growth in Latin America, where we recently opened a regional office, and we are still welcoming many new members every year in Asia as well,” says Peraboni.
“The exhibition industry, in my opinion, reflects changes within our society more closely than any other. And throughout UFI’s long history the association has shown not only that it knows how to adapt to the various challenges being set around the world, but it is also taking measures to always serve its membership,” he says.
One such area in which education is key is that of the continual evolution of exhibition formats.
Peraboni refers to this evolution as “influence, interference and merging”. Events such as tech show CeBIT in Hannover and the furniture and interior design show iSaloni in Milan demonstrate the ways in which the lines are blurring between trade and consumer events, with each type taking style points from the other.
“Their formats and audiences are mixing and sometimes, they even merge together,” he says.