Brussels Expo Upgrade Being Studied

Regina McGee, Senior News Editor
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BRUSSELS – A feasibility study is underway to renovate and upgrade Brussels Expo, the largest exhibition venue in Belgium, with more than 1.2 million square feet of event space in 12 halls and two auditoriums.

The study, to be completed in the fall, is being conducted by jwc, a leading management advisory firm for the global exhibition and conference industry. In a second step, jwc will develop a master plan for the development of the center.

The Art Deco design of the venue’s exhibition halls is a legacy of the Brussels world fairs of 1935 and 1958. Subsequent upgrades and expansions included turning hall 12 into a sophisticated concert hall and show venue. Today, Brussels Expo hosts more than 50 trade fairs and exhibitions annually, as well as a diverse program of concerts, festivals, and international conferences. Brussels Expo is located close to the most important institutions of the European Union and to major international organizations, such as NATO.

“Brussels as the European Capital has a great potential for trade fairs, congresses and confex events,” said Jochen Witt, President and CEO of jwc, which is based in Germany. “To be attractive in today’s competitive environment, venues need to offer some basic requirements, including integrated congress and exhibition facilities, top-class food and beverage concepts, digital solutions, column-free halls, and the right technical services.” He said the master plan for the venue will focus on quality improvements in these areas, as well as phasing options that will ensure no disruption of business through the renovation process.

One of Brussels Expo’s largest expositions is Seafood Expo Global, which has been held at the venue for 28 years. Seeking a larger venue and city to host the event, Diversified Communications, organizer of the expo, announced in September that it was moving the expo to Barcelona, Spain, starting with the 2021 edition. Expansion of Brussels Expo, however, is not a goal of the current feasibility study or master plan to follow.

“It is clearly not the intention to work towards an increase of the existing capacities,” Witt said. “Particularly in Europe, we see a clear trend to decreasing show sizes. At the same time, organizers, exhibitors and visitors demand strongly improved venue quality. We are currently working on five different venue improvement projects in Europe. In all except for one, the focus is not venue extension but venue downsizing in favor of quality improvement.”

Reach Jochen Witt at +49 221 27 25 89 60 or jwitt@jwc.eu.com.