DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY (Nov. 1, 11 a.m. EST) — With a cloud of economic and political uncertainty wafting over K 2001, show organizers breathed a loud sigh of relief that final attendance was down only about 13 percent from the last show.
Organizers estimated that more than 230,000 visitors came to the world's largest plastics exhibition, which ended its eight-day run Nov. 1 at the Dusseldorf fairgrounds. At the last show in 1998, about 265,000 people attended.
Messe Dusseldorf GmbH had expected the dropoff to be much worse, said Helmut Eschwey, K show president and chairman of large equipment supplier SMS Plastics Technology of Meinerzhagen, Germany.
With executives of some companies staying home, many top officials still flocked to the exhibit floor and were serious about buying equipment, Eschwey said.
His company, which includes supplier Battenfeld GmbH of Meinerzhagen, Germany, sold twice as many machines at this show than at the 1998 event, he said. More appointments were booked and good contacts made, Eschwey added.
The exception continued to be North American companies, many of which chose not to fly across the Atlantic. Final figures showed the number of North American visitors down 2,000 people from K '98, a 25 percent drop, said Messe spokeswoman Eva Rugenstein.
Estimates from earlier in the week had recorded a steeper decline of 50 percent. But in K's final days, more U.S. visitors showed up, and fewer German attendees came, Rugenstein said.
Even so, the volume of U.S. customers in a buying mood was less than satisfactory, Eschwey said.
“We did not see as many U.S. customers for our electric machines as we had hoped,” he said. “The market for electric machines is stronger in America than in Europe, and we would have liked to have demonstrated [our electric presses] to a few more visitors.”
Attendance from Latin American countries also was off slightly, but an unexpected surge of Asian visitors helped boost numbers, said Karlheinz Wismer, Messe Dusseldorf president and chief executive officer. The number of visitors from India was especially strong, with about 5,000 guests from that country, Wismer said.
Organizers would like to boost North American attendance figures for the next K show, which will be held Oct. 20-27, 2004, Wismer said. The United States is the third-largest exhibitor at the show, behind Germany, and had 146 booths at K 2001.
“We have to develop ways for our show to attract more Americans,” Wismer said.
“Considering the situation with the world, we are pleased that the event had no disruptions whatsoever,” Wismer added. “It was truly a very positive experience.”