By Enrique Soto
Before the 2008 crisis, Feria Valencia undertook its activity in a stable economic and social context and met its aims with relative ease. This scenario changed radically with the financial crisis: Feria Valencia needed public funding to meet the debt incurred for the expansion and modernisation of its premises, thus calling into question its historically private nature, and bringing to the surface previously unresolved conflicts related to the ownership of the facilities.
In 2012, Feria Valencia proposed a restructuring strategy aimed at solving these problems: separating the site (its ownership and financing) from the operation of the activity, so that the latter would not be weighed down by the weight of the debt linked to the former.
On 23 December 2021, with the approval of Regional Council Decree Law 19/2021, authorising the creation of the “Societat Valenciana Feria Valencia, SA”, and its subsequent ratification by the Valencian Parliament, we can now affirm that this objective has been achieved. In these ten years, the journey has been long and complex, and many people and institutions have been involved, often with different points of view on how to achieve the goal. The search for a consensus between the different administrations and interest groups -demanded by civil society- has undoubtedly delayed the restructuring process, but it has provided it with a very solid basis for the future. As a result of this consensus, the story of Feria Valencia will remain faithful to a legacy of more than one hundred years working for Valencian companies and society; a legacy that has been built, as now, by all of us.
At the same time, the transformation of our legal status (from a non-profit association to a state-owned enterprise) will put an end to several chronic problems. Among them, the lack of definition regarding the legal nature of FV, which prevented the everyday conduct of business; or that of a governance structure with multiple participating entities, which made decision making difficult. The new corporate framework, with a clear allocation and definition of governance roles and management expertise and responsibilities, will provide certainty in terms of the applicable regulations. Even more important is the possibility of planning and anticipating the future of the trade fair business.
Even before the pandemic, Feria Valencia’s management team identified the differentiating elements of its value proposition with respect to its competitors: access to market information, excellence, flexibility and proximity in customer service, enhanced visitor experience, data-driven decision making and working together with the city of Valencia and the tourism industry to create a mutually beneficial environment, etc.
Causing numerous event cancellations around the world, the pandemic has highlighted the validity of previous proposals, thus accelerating the need to address some challenges that existed beforehand, such as keeping the community that participates in a fair active and coherent beyond the period during which the event takes place. The new Feria Valencia must deepen its essential nature as a platform, community or network, based on the provision of services to its members. This means improving the communication, promotion, buyer acquisition and content design and execution services that we already offer our clients. But, above all, it means creating new services and products that complement these aforementioned services.
This is the importance of the trade fair digitalisation project that we have been developing over the last two years, which will enable a direct relationship with our clients beyond the physical event, as well as providing information and data about their needs and preferences in order to generate new products and services.
The phase following this corporate restructuring must therefore be one that transforms the trade fair business model, from an analogue event (on specific dates, focused on logistics and on the exhibitor) to a digitalised event that is also focused on the visitor. Our clients expect, as a return on their investment, that we provide them with quality visitors, therefore, the new Feria Valencia will actively work on creating demand so that it occupies a prominent place in the community. In short, the corporate transformation must allow Feria Valencia to maintain the place it has occupied since its origin among the most important European trade fairs, mainly due to the capacity for innovation and adaptation that is part of its legacy.