When Europe’s largest breakbulk exhibition left the Port of Antwerp, Easyfairs saw a gap in the market for an ambitious new launch…
Sometimes in life an opportunity arises that seems too good to pass up, and this is exactly what happened when ITE Group’s Breakbulk Europe outgrew its home at Antwerp Expo and moved to Messe Bremen.
Easyfairs, which owns Antwerp Expo, realised that the chance to launch an event in the home of breakbulk – cargo which is too large for shipping containers – was too good to pass up. And so, Antwerp XL was born as an event focusing solely on the relatively small, niche section of the shipping and logistics industry.
The Port of Antwerp is Europe’s second-largest seaport and a well-established breakbulk industry hub, so one of the first steps, says event manager Sophie McKimm, was getting the port on board.
“They were supporting the event and very influential at the show,” she tells EN. The event welcomed Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO of the Port of Antwerp, for the opening ceremony, who commented: “Breakbulk is back in Antwerp, it’s come home.”
As with any launch event, it was important to get the industry’s major stakeholders and media on board, which meant that the Easyfairs team set off all over the world, having those all-important face-to-face conversations.
“It was a face-to-face sell, and a passion sell as well,” continues McKimm. “I think people really bought into us and what we were doing for the community. We were bringing a show back to its roots.
“A big challenge was competing against a large show that had been there for years. The majority of the industry go to that show, so we had to try and change people’s habits and get them to take a risk.”
Being both venue owner and organiser had its advantages, while there was still a tenancy cost it was very much a team effort, with all Easyfairs employees pulling for a successful event.
“We all wanted the show to work,” says McKimm. “There was a lot of morale and support for the show because people knew it was a challenge.”
There were over 50 countries represented on the show floor, and similar to many shows aimed at an international audience, networking was a hugely important component of Antwerp XL. The exhibition and conference are both paid-for events, ensuring a committed audience attend, and the show kicked off with an evening networking event on the show floor. On the second night attendees congregated in Antwerp’s main square for further hospitality.
“Because it’s a global industry it’s built on trust,” explains McKimm. “If I have cargo that I’m shipping from Antwerp to Australia I may not have met the person accepting the cargo in Australia. These events bring people together, so that they can meet and build trust and have the dialogue that maybe they wouldn’t have in everyday work. It’s through those meetings that they decide to do business.”
The final challenge involved in the Antwerp XL launch was the proximity to Breakbulk Europe. As the show was filling the tenancy gap left by the ITE event’s departure, the two exhibitions took place just two weeks apart.
In the end, the numbers speak for themselves. The event attracted 3,189 top industry decision-makers from around the world and saw a rebook of over 100 per cent, as exhibitors demonstrated their faith in the bright future of Antwerp XL.