EBACE Preview

 - April 29, 2009, 7:49 AM

Inevitably, the 2009 European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE, May 12 to 14) in Geneva will be viewed by a concerned industry as a barometer for how the business is weathering a global economic storm that shows little sign of abating. At face value the show seems set to present a brave face, with the overall scale of the exhibits down only slightly on last year’s record-setting edition.

But a more representative indicator of the health of the industry in Europe will be the number of visitors the show draws, and the assumption of organizers and exhibitors alike seems to be that this will inevitably be down as companies seek to control operating costs. EBACE is jointly organized by the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) and NBAA.

As of press time, 408 exhibitors were registered for this year’s EBACE show–down almost 10 percent on the 440 companies present last year. However, according to organizers, the overall exhibit space area occupied will hardly be reduced at all compared with 2008. Both Halls 6 and 7 at Geneva’s Palais d’Expositions (PalExpo) will once again be filled, but without the need to resort to some of the expansion area attached to Hall 6.

“For 2009, fortunately, most of the exhibitors were signed up before the downturn really hit the industry so the exhibitor space is pretty well sold out,” EBAA president and CEO Brian Humphries told AIN. “There are no concerns about exhibitor presence, but the big question is visitor attendance, and we do expect that the number of delegates might be down because of everything the industry is going through.”

Last year 13,692 visitors flocked to EBACE from 91 different countries and 37 U.S. states. How close the 2009 tally comes to this impressive figure will be a significant benchmark of the degree to which the European business aviation community has had to retrench to survive the recession.

In any case, EBACE 2009 does seem set once again to present at least 60 aircraft on its convenient static display area, which immediately adjoins Hall 7 at the Geneva Airport site. Some 27 companies have booked to exhibit aircraft and several of these will have three or four on display.

“The show is just the place where the industry needs to meet and regroup in these tough times,” Humphries added. “We will be reminding the world that the fundamentals behind business aviation have not gone away, indeed have intensified, and we have some great products out there to meet this demand.”

Reflecting the prevailing mood of caution in the industry, the theme of the opening general session of EBACE will be “The Right Tool for Challenging Times.” Conference sessions will also include the following topical subjects: Europe’s new emissions trading scheme and what business aircraft operators need to do to comply with it; safety management systems and the new toolkit from the International Business Aviation Council for meeting this new ICAO requirement; airport access problems; the new operating rules from the European Aviation Safety Agency; and the Single European Sky air traffic management program.

Separately, the new BA-Meetup forum for the European business aviation community has been transferred to Geneva and will be staged on the eve of the EBACE show on May 11. It was originally scheduled to be held in Lyon, France, from March 18 to 20.

The plan changed in early March after organizers accepted that not enough people had committed to making the trip to Lyon. Conference chairman Bud Slabbaert cited restrictions on corporate travel as the main factor and has argued that more people will be able to participate if the event is held at the same time and in the same location as EBACE.

The agenda for BA-Meetup has also been streamlined to take into account the new one-day format. Among the topics to be covered are flight planning, customer service, FBO management, branding, airport development, public relations and dealing with the media, and how to handle slow-paying clients. Registration fees are €150 for EBAA members and €190 for non-members. More details are available at www.ba-meetup.com.

For more information about this month’s EBACE event, log on to www.ebace.aero.