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May 17, 2011
EBACE now ‘ established’

by Nigel Moll

As the curtains fall on the third edition of EBACE, the organizers can feel confident that the strong support for the event in this most difficult of years bodes well for bolstering its stature as a significant fixture in the world aerospace calendar. This year the show could be said to have outgrown the label “new” and acquired another : “established.”

As of yesterday afternoon, the visitor tally stood at 5,655, a healthy increase over not only last year’s equivalent figure (4,600) but in fact well above the final EBACE 2011 attendance tally (4,824). Total attendance at the show’s debut in 2011 was 3,620.

Exhibitor and exhibit-space totals were both up this year over last, with the exhibitor count rising by 11 percent to 243 (from 219 last year) and the exhibit-space occupied climbing by more than 13 percent to 613 stand spaces (from 532 last year).

At a time when “people just aren’t buying airplanes,” to quote newly installed Gulfstream Aerospace president Bryan Moss, the people charged with selling and tending for business aircraft have at least gathered in strength to rally the cause. Here at EBACE, the Gulfstream 550 made its first public showing anywhere, the Challenger 300 showed its face for the first time in Europe and the revised Beechjet 400A made a surprise first showing anywhere as the Hawker 400XP. While acknowledging the reluctance of buyers to reach for their checkbooks, Gulfstream president Moss was nevertheless happy with the caliber of visitor here, an opinion expressed by several others.

EBACE in fact is regarded highly enough that Cessna, Gulfstream and Raytheon Aircraft had already decided to give the Paris Air Show a miss this year (it opens next month) in favor of EBACE. It seems likely others are poised to follow suit in two years’ time. Even France’s Dassault Falcon Jet, in the opinion of one of its executives, should give thought to pulling out of Paris in favor of EBACE, leaving Dassault’s fighter arm to fly the company flag at the famed French salon. Business aviation for years has tended to spend a lot of money on getting lost in the military, airline and industrial might peddling its wares in the vast acreage of the biennial Paris and Farnborough shows. Certainly the proximity of the EBACE and Paris shows in the calendar year encourages business aviation companies to choose one over the other, and the continuing rise of EBACE in stature makes it a growing blip on these companies’ radar screens as they plan their marketing strategies and budgets.

In its first two editions published earlier this week, EBACE Convention News posed the question of whether the event should remain in Geneva or, like the NBAA Convention in the U.S., travel around the continent instead. We asked the question well aware that to some extent it is academic–there are not too many venues suited to the needs of EBACE–but at least it would gauge the level of satisfaction with the status quo. To an overwhelming degree, exhibitors and attendees expressed a preference for Geneva, confirming the soundness of EBAA/NBAA’s plan to keep the event here at PalExpo in Geneva for at least the next three years.

NBAA vice president of conventions and seminars Kathleen Blouin, while emphasizing above all the suitability of Geneva as the venue of choice, mentioned the pros and cons of three possible alternative sites. Of Cannes, in the south of France : “Not right. It’s a 20-minute drive between the airport and the convention center.” Of Munich, Germany (suggested by some members as a possibility) : “We have not looked at it yet.” And of Rimini, Italy : “Difficult to get to.”

Among the exhibitors and visitors who responded to our question, the dominant factor in favor of Geneva is the proximity of the static ramp to the exhibit hall :

• “Vendors can meet someone at the booth, and instead of sending them on a 30-minute bus ride to get to the static display, they can say, ‘ Let’s step outside and I can show you. … ’”–operations v-p, FBO.
• “I’m meeting a gentleman this afternoon who is flying in for the meeting, then flying out again. He doesn’t need to take a taxi or waste time at the airport; he just gets in, does the meeting and gets out.”–v-p, fuel supplier.
• “Geneva is the place for business aviation here in Europe : easy access, and very nice to have the static display next to the exhibit hall.”–CEO, aircraft cleaning and service company.
• “I’d like to see the show here for many years to come.”–CEO, aircraft engine parts supplier.

Attendees also feel comfortable in this day and age coming to a country renowned for its neutrality : “I would like to see it remain here. For M'it is a matter of logistics. Anytime a show like this moves around, costs go up. The stability afforded by being in Switzerland is a key factor for me–neutrality has its benefits. The political climate in Switzerland will always allow people to come here without thinking twice about it.”–COO, manufacturer of cockpit safety equipment.

While they were distinctly in the minority, there were those opposed to one fixed EBACE abode : “Since day one, I’ve asked them to consider rotating the show among other cities to stimulate attendance and draw new customers and new exhibitors. Munich comes to mind as a possibility.”–marketing communications manager, flight training organization.

EBACE next year returns to Geneva, May 25 to 27.

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