Farnborough Show Undented By Economic Woes, But Organizers Move To Trim Exhibitor Costs

 - July 1, 2012, 12:10 AM
Two tough years of harsh business conditions since the 2010 Farnborough International show have not dented prospects for this year’s event, say organizers. (Photo: Mark Wagner)

The 2012 Farnborough International airshow will fly in the face of still-tough business conditions, according to organizers of the biennial event, to be staged in the UK from July 9 to 15. “The last two years have seen a very difficult economic environment, but 2012 is looking like it will be a really great show,” said Farnborough International chief executive Shaun Ormrod.

This year’s Farnborough show is sold out and is set to accommodate some 1,455 exhibitors from approximately 70 countries. What remains to be seen is how close to the tally of 120,000 expected business visitors the 2012 show will attract and whether it will generate anything like the $47 billion worth of deals announced in July 2010.

Organizers have reported increases in the size of several national pavilions, including those of Italy, France, Russia, the U.S., Mexico, the Czech Republic, Germany and Switzerland.

Russia has doubled its presence at the airshow, taking over space relinquished by U.S. defense contractor Northrop Grumman, organizers said. Ormrod said Northrop Grumman’s absence is disappointing but not surprising given the deep impending cuts in U.S. defense spending. “From time to time, major players will change their strategy, and that will include their profile at major international events,” he said.

Overall one quarter of 2012 exhibitors have increased the amount of space they’ve booked compared with their presence two years ago. At the same time, 28 percent of 2012 exhibitors are exhibiting for the first time at Farnborough. Just over 55 percent of all exhibitors are from outside the UK.

“What this means is that more than 50 percent of our customer base is upwardly dynamic, which means that [those customers are] looking to do more business and win new business,” Ormrod told a pre-show press conference in May.

One new feature of the 2012 Farnborough show is a program to attract pre-arranged delegations of senior executives from the civil aerospace and air transport sectors, mirroring the long-established arrangements for official military delegations. Working with the Aerospace Export group of the UK’s Aerospace, Defence & Space (ADS) trade association, Farnborough International has invited executives from key aerospace prime contractors and from airlines from around the world. The idea is to give exhibitors assured access to key decision makers responsible for selecting manufacturing partners and contractors, as well as to heads of procurement for airlines.

ADS is organizing a series of conferences during Farnborough International. On Tuesday, July 10, the conference programs will focus on the aerospace and space sectors before switching to defense and security on Wednesday, July 11.

On the Tuesday and Wednesday of the show (July 10 and 11) aerospace buyers will be given the chance to have pre-arranged access to international supply-chain companies. This is expected to see more than 50 industry buyers attend more than 800 separate meetings with exhibitors.

At the same time, 39 military delegations have been invited, and planned attendance by the UK’s own Ministry of Defence has been boosted. Farnborough International assigns project managers to work with exhibitors to maximize their exposure to the official delegations.

Another enlarged aspect of the 2012 Farnborough show will be the unmanned systems showcase, which will occupy approximately 50 percent more space in Hall 3 than in 2010. Several exhibitors left the 2010 show with new orders and evidently this has inspired larger investments in the unmanned sector of the event, with display space in this area sold out. This year’s show will feature an advice clinic for unmanned systems customers and prospective partners. Hall 3 will also feature a new zone committed to aviation security, with cameras, radars and air-monitoring systems representing “truly an integrated approach into the future of aviation security,” said Angel Bennett, director of marketing with sponsor Flir Systems.

Cost Cutting

In response to exhibitors’ concerns about the high cost of exhibiting on the international airshow circuit, Farnborough organizers are introducing a new schedule that will see the exhibit halls closed over the public weekend (July 14 and 15). Some visitors with long-standing connections to the industry, who might otherwise have attended on the public days, will also be allowed access to the exhibit halls on July 13. Remaining open throughout the full show period will be the Space Zone in Hall 3 and the media center and restaurant in Hall 1A.

The change will reduce exhibitors’ staffing costs for the event and Farnborough International says it allows them to put more resources into the show’s flying display and public attractions. According to organizers, more than 50 percent of the costs associated with being involved in an airshow now relate to staffing, transportation and accommodation, which bolsters the case for shortening the period for which exhibitors require full staffing.

Importantly, the halls will remain open on Friday, July 13, which is Futures Day at Farnborough International. This part of the show is expected to see more than 10,000 young people aged 11 to 21, being hosted for a full day of visits and activities intended to inspire them to pursue careers in the aerospace industry. Futures Day will include a careers fair with conferences, seminars, learning activities and interactive experiences. It will also include the final of the biennial Rocketry Challenge, with teams of high-school students from the UK, U.S., France and Japan competing to launch homemade rockets.

For more information about this year’s Farnborough airshow go to: www.farnborough.com/airshow-2012.