2003-2013 Innovation and Internationalisation

The third decade of AEFI’s activity was characterised by a succession of events that alternated between significant positive momentum and even greater reversals in trend, combined with unprecedented financial, economic and social change

The AEFI presidents at the 25-year meeting

In 2003, the Italian exhibition system experienced two major transformations:

  • regional decentralisation,
  • and the reform of the exhibition system with the transformation of exhibition organisations into joint-stock companies, requiring innovation in physical structures and management methods. Substantial investments were made to expand and upgrade the structures of Italy’s leading exhibition centres, new activities such as events, congresses, meetings and services connected to the exhibition sector in general were developed, and the reference market was expanded from Europe to the world as a whole. 
Raffaele Cercola and Piergiacomo Ferrari at the meeting in Rome with Minister Emma Bonino

These changes required a different managerial approach to the operation of exhibition centres.

With this is mind, AEFI worked to help the sector support the changes underway by:

  • creating an information and communication system that uses all the most up-to-date tools made available by new technologies; 
  • highlighting the infrastructural limits of the Italian System and asking national, regional and local public authorities to support private investment and strong investments in infrastructures and services to bring Italy’s exhibition districts into line with their European competitors;
  • supporting internationalisation through synergistic action with the Italian Trade Commission, Italian Embassies abroad, Chambers of Commerce, Regional Authorities, Associations, Sace and Simest;
  • launching certification procedures.

During the economic crisis that hit the sector from 2008, it became necessary to add actions to support members and adapt strategies accordingly.

The AEFI AUMA meeting in Rome

In this phase, it was essential to lend political strength to the sector through inter-associative collaboration and more intense institutional relations activities.

With Riello, in particular, who took office in the midst of the crisis, the systematic search for synergies with the institutions and all the players in the sector grew.

Three chairmen worked to address these issues during the decade: Piergiacomo Ferrari, CEO of Fiera Milano, in office until December 2006, Raffaele Cercola, Chairman of the Mostra d’Oltremare in Naples, who chaired the association from 2006 to 2010, and Ettore Riello, Chairman of Veronafiere, elected in 2010.