BaselWorld drops its ‘One Show, Two Cities’ plan

BaselWorld, the international Swiss watch and jewelry fair, has dropped its heavily-promoted “One Show, Two Cities” plan and says its 25 national pavilions will return to Basel, Switzerland, for the 2004 show, slated for April 15 –22.

“BaselWorld will be held exclusively in Basel in the future,” said a July 9 statement by the show’s owner, MCH Swiss Exhibition. Instead, MCH will create a sixth exhibition hall for the national delegations’ “Hall of the Universe,” close to Swiss Exhibition’s current exhibition center in Basel.

The “Two Cities” plan was designed to reduce crowding and provide more space in Basel’s show halls for its prestigious watch and jewelry brands by shifting the national delegations to Swiss Exhibition’s exhibition center in Zurich, Switzerland.

However, the April debut in Zurich of the “Hall of the Universe” (about 800 firms) was derailed when the Swiss government banned Asian exhibitors (about half the foreign vendors) to prevent the possible spread of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) illness. The Hong Kong exhibitors, the largest group, threatened to permanently leave the fair if it continued to be held in Zurich, which had pushed the Swiss government to close the show. (Both the Basel Show and Hong Kong exhibitors have filed complaints against the Swiss government.)

Since the end of this year’s show, BaselWorld management has met with vendors and exhibitor groups and investigated alternatives to Zurich. They concluded the best solution was to add a new hall in Basel with the extra exhibition floor space required for the “Hall of the Universe” delegations. The plan was formally approved this week by the board of the directors of MCH Swiss Exhibition.

Ironically, show management had long said the “One Show, Two Cities” plan was necessary because there was no more room for expansion in Basel. However, according to the July 9 statement, Swiss Exhibition “three years ago investigated several potential sites in Basel” in response to exhibitors’ demand for more space. “None were appropriate or available at that time,” it notes. “However, due in part to the current economic climate, a suitable place has recently been identified and will be developed the for the 2004 show.”