A coffee with… Xabier Basañez – General Manager of Bilbao Exhibition Centre and President of AFE

Empack: In March, Bilbao Exhibition Centre will host the first edition of Empack and Logistics & Automation, an event that will bring together the entire value chain in northern Spain, with innovative proposals from packaging, logistics, automation and transport. What is your opinion of this new event and how is it being received by the BEC?

Xabier: As a team and a venue with a long history of organising and hosting professional events in the industrial and technological field, we at BEC are very pleased with this new event. Empack and Logistics & Automation is perfectly aligned with our strategy of specialising in B2B meetings with high added value. Behind our calendar there is a work plan whose objective is to link our activity to innovative sectors, with a future, that drive employment and wealth and contribute to improving the value proposition for our customers.

Therefore, in 2023 we will hold other events that fully respond to this approach, such as WORLD MARITIME WEEK, an international meeting of the maritime sector, +INDUSTRY, a brand that encompasses different fairs dedicated to advanced manufacturing, or STEEL TECH, an event that in its second edition will focus on steel and industry 5.0. Industry needs to take on new challenges in order to act as the lever for change that it is and has been throughout history. This requires meeting spaces to connect its protagonists, so that they can continue to advance and boost their businesses while continuing to respond to the new economic and environmental demands of today’s society. This is, and will continue to be, our mission.

Empack: What do you think are the strong points of the event and why would you recommend professionals not to miss this event?

Xabier: One of the most relevant aspects of Empack and Logistics & Automation Bilbao is the fact that the event is held in an eminently industrial environment. In the Basque Country, important user sectors such as automotive and components, plastics and rubber, metallurgy, electronics, machinery, capital goods and components, as well as metal parts and pieces, have a great weight in the economy. Bringing the event closer to this entire industrial ecosystem will undoubtedly help to position it as a benchmark for the sector among a wide range of leading companies in a wide variety of fields.

Empack: As CEO of BEC, there are many sectors that you deal with and know. In your opinion, which are the industries in the region that are most committed to the environmental and digital change that is required today?

Xabier: I believe that the mobilisation of our industries towards more sustainable production models is a reality; there are many that have already taken a step forward and are firmly committed to sustainability and digitalisation. In order to organise and promote this whole process, the Basque Country also has its own roadmap, the Basque Green Deal, through which we join the European Green Pact; it is a competitive model with well-defined lines of action -energy, industry, mobility, biodiversity and food- in which inter-institutional and public-private collaboration are fundamental.

For our part, in this context of growing awareness on the part of our customers, at BEC we have also elevated both concepts to the category of priority. In the area of energy efficiency, for example, we have a great support, our photovoltaic solar park. We are currently in the process of expanding the installation of panels to increase the output by a factor of ten to one megawatt.

We have also begun to accredit our events as sustainable events, with the Erronka Garbia seal, and we continue to strengthen our policy of alliances with local, national and international entities. One of the most outstanding actions is the Net Zero Carbon Events initiative that we support from UFI-Global Association of the Exhibition Industry to tackle climate change. With regard to digitalisation, we continue to make progress. At the moment, any BEC customer can complete their participation 100% online and has very interesting tools at their disposal during the event itself.

Empack: And finally, as president of AFE and for those who have not yet opted for trade fairs as a marketing tool, what information could you provide in favour of events such as Empack and Logistics & Automation Bilbao?

Xabier: Meetings such as these are fundamental for promoting innovation, knowledge and quality commercial relations, and they have been clearly revalued. The current times pose complex scenarios in which many companies need, more than ever, to show and know in a concentrated and agile way the latest market movements and trends in order to anticipate them and make strategic decisions with the best allies.

The figures for this year at AFE, the Association of Spanish Trade Fairs that I chair, are more than eloquent: to date, we estimate that more than 400 trade fairs have been held, with the participation of around 65,000 exhibitors and around 5 million visitors. We are talking about events that have offered their participants the best marketing tool for branding and positioning themselves, for getting to know and accessing new foreign markets, exchanging experiences, obtaining direct feedback on products and services, speeding up sales and purchasing processes… At this point, I must stress that these are formats that are evolving with proposals based on the experiential aspect and very interesting content.

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