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Baselworld in a modern era

17 December 2018

By Bernardette Sto. Domingo   

Baselworld 2018

Michel Loris-Melikoff, managing director of Baselworld

Bespoke necklace by Chopard

Diva’s Dream Phoenix watch by Bulgari


Transformations are unfolding at Baselworld 2019 as fair organisers reinforce the relevance of traditional trade shows amid a fast-paced business environment.

Outstanding jewellers and watchmakers converge once a year to display their latest designs and innovations at Baselworld, renowned as the world’s largest watch and jewellery show. This year however, the dynamics may have shifted for the 101-year-old fair after Swiss manufacturer Swatch Group's exit amid calls for change.

Organisers are at the forefront of innovations to make the fair’s 2019 edition more appealing. Michel Loris-Melikoff, managing director of Baselworld, talked to JNA about endeavours to reinvent the show.

JNA: How different is Baselworld 2019 going to be from previous editions?

Michel Loris-Melikoff: Every effort is being made to transform Baselworld, ensuring that it will be a success in 2019 and beyond. We are working hard to make the show more exciting, entertaining and accessible than before. Our goal is to create an exceptional experience for the industry. We want to improve the flow of visitors by holding the fair within Halls 1, 3 and 4 – which are interconnected. Shorter pathways mean more efficiency for visitors. In Hall 1.0, we will have a Central Plaza to accommodate restaurants and resting and meeting areas, and the new media centre. A Show Plaza will be the highlight of Hall 1.2, where jewellery brands are exhibiting. Fashion and jewellery events will be held three times a day in the hall. We’re also partnering with hotels to guarantee transparent prices. Every hall will likewise have dedicated areas for the media to enable them to work efficiently and to report live onsite. We have also opened our publication channels (newsletter and social media) for visitor promotions. We will upgrade the Baselworld chatbot – introduced last year – to a personal show concierge, reintroduce the Baselworld Daily News and update our website with new services, allowing greater connectivity for exhibitors, visitors and journalists.

JNA: How are you responding to calls for modernisation and reinvention?

Loris-Melikoff: We are implementing fresh initiatives and doing things differently. The overall feedback has been positive and encouraging so far. To get a bigger picture and to effectively answer the demands of the market and our stakeholders, we are conducting a large-scale survey among exhibitors and visitors. It will serve as the basis for our Baselworld 2020 concept and will likely bring about even more fundamental transformations. We will present it at Baselworld 2019.

JNA: What’s the impact of Swatch Group’s departure and how are you planning to fill the slots it has vacated?

Loris-Melikoff: Swatch’s cancellation was painful, of course. It also prompted some exhibitors to re-evaluate their commitment to Baselworld. But a feared domino effect has not happened. Furthermore, we have received commitments from all of the important brands that they intend to exhibit next year. We are filling the gaps in Hall 1.0 in a very attractive way, with the Central Plaza.

JNA: Amid a more transparent and fast-moving business scenario, what makes traditional watch and jewellery fairs still relevant in facilitating business within the industry?

Loris-Melikoff: Baselworld is the central meeting place for all players in the industry – from production to distribution, as well as for customers and aficionados. Everyone comes here to feel the passion behind the products; experience the brands in person; meet the CEOs face to face; and breathe the unique atmosphere of Baselworld. It is the experience – physically touching and directly admiring the products, and the shared dialogue among buyers and sellers that make a trade show indispensable. Thus, we must create new points of contact that strengthen the context for shared experiences and enhance the show and its character. An event must surprise people and spark their enthusiasm. It must touch them physically and emotionally. All of this cannot be achieved digitally: This is the strength of trade shows. Second, we must also utilise our digital potential more effectively. Digitalisation offers us the opportunity not only to network with the industry during the six days of Baselworld but throughout the year. We are taking a big step forward in this area with a new website, the chatbot, social media channels and onsite apps. We want to create a new kind of experience for traders and visitors, which will be unique in the industry.