What happens when the HVACR industry sets out to have a major trade show only once every two years and ends up possibly having two such events within a week of each other?

That’s what contractors and manufacturers in Europe are trying to figure out after a flurry of activities over the past 18 months or so have resulted in what is certainly an unusual development.

For 27 years, the premiere refrigeration and air conditioning event in Europe has been the IKK show, which in English translates as the International Trade Fair for Refrigeration, Air Conditioning, and Ventilation. In odd numbered years, it was held in the northern part of Germany, most recently in Hannover. In even numbered years, it has been in the southern part, in Nuremburg.

Over the years the southern tier show generally drew better attendance to the point where a number of manufacturer exhibitors thought it might be best to take the show to an every other year format and keep it in Nuremburg. The sponsors of the show, the VDKF, an association of German contractors, saw value in the expo every year because of constantly changing technology.

Push came to shove a few years ago and in fact a number of large manufacturers took a pass on the 2005 expo in Hannover and there was lower than usual attendance. (From my perspective, it was still a worthwhile show with lots of interesting new technologies.)


In recent times, there have been some bumpy relations between the German contractors association and an organization representing manufacturer exhibitors.

One result was that IKK decided to go to an every other year format and stick with just even numbered years for its major show. But the lure of a new expo center in Stuttgart and other amenities caused IKK to announce its next expo for Oct. 8-10, 2008 in that city which is about 120 miles southwest of Nuremburg.

But the manufacturers’ representatives, still not happy with negotiations with IKK, and still wanting familiar Nuremburg for a location, decided to create its own expo called Chillventa and schedule it for Oct. 15-17, 2008.

Obviously it is very unlikely that two major HVACR trade shows will actually take place within 120 miles of each other and only five days from the end of one and the start of the other.

But which one? The head of the German contractors association that sponsors IKK said he will do all he can to get his contractor peers to come to IKK. Manufacturers, however, appear to be lining up with Chillventa. In fact, ads for Chillventa started showing up on electronic billboards at train and bus stations and at the airport in Nuremburg during the most recent IKK show there - and that was a full two years before the event.

This creates some interesting questions. What happens if attendees go to one show and the exhibitors go to another? Does the promise of a strong attendance draw a lot of exhibitors? Or do a large number of exhibitors produce a lot of attendees? Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?

My best guess regarding the situation in Europe is that the two shall become one and there will end up being just one major HVACR expo in Germany in October 2008.

Which one? For the record, I’m staying neutral. The two groups - contractors and manufacturers - may end up finding a common ground to both endorse one expo (even if it leaves the tourist bureau of one city a bit upset), so I’ll let them work it out.

Here in the United States we haven’t dealt with a situation quite as dramatic. We all know the major expo for our industry is the Air Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating (AHR) Expo, co-sponsored by ASHRAE and ARI, which takes place each winter. (The next such show is this Jan. 29-31 in Dallas). It is an annual show, but once every three years the show rotates to Chicago and that is generally a show that draws a larger number of attendees and exhibitors.

It is comforting to know that there is one primary place in the United States to go to get the latest news about industry technology and trends. Hopefully the folks in Europe will get on that same track again.

Publication date:12/04/2006